Lost….and the woods

Call this the Whitman’s Sampler edition of Nason’s blog. I am all over the board this week.

-I spent two days this week in the Northern New Hampshire wilderness as part of a kickoff for the local Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership training program. Myself and 29 others from various companies and industries around the city got accepted into this nine-month affair after an application/interview process. At first, I had the normal apprehensions about spending time in the woods with a group of complete strangers, especially after traveling down a road named after Jason Vorhees’ favorite summer camp.

But after 36 hours at a Scout Camp with Ropes courses and a fun night at the Gunstock Inn, all that went away. We were given various tasks that forced us to work together, put our trust in others and reaffirm our trust in ourselves. Literally having someone’s life be put in your hands as they dangle on a rope 50 feet above you is quite an experience and makes you realize a lot about yourself. The overall docket is one day per month spending time on different aspects of what makes the city tick and how we can affect as future leaders of it. There are Leadership programs like this around the country, even in Maine which seems to get disrespected a bit for its business environment. I can tell already that it’s going to be something that will make a difference in the rest of my life. More details on this as we move through ’06 to ’07.

-I started watching Season 2 of Lost over the weekend. I’m still hooked after watching 12 episodes in just over 24 hours. In watching it, though, it made me think of how far out creatively this show can go and for that matter, others like it that rely on a central and eventually finite theme. Most of these shows I like: Lost, 24, Prison Break, but the premise can only go for so far. How many twists and turns can one find on an island? At what point does the chase from the cops end? When will Jack Bauer realize that he might want to do something else after five pretty shitty 24-hour periods in his life?

It’s a balancing act for everyone involved: creators, fans, networks and advertisers. For creators, is it about the money or the body of work? For networks, when does putting on a show that isn’t at its peak become a bad thing and subsequently, a poor draw for advertisers? And for fans, when does the pleasure of spending an hour getting away from the world become a lackluster experience?

(And for me, it’s assessing how many questions I can ask in two paragraphs. I think I’m up to about 32.)

I’m inclined to think that in this era of 2 billion networks, most really good dramatic shows have a five-year shelf life and really great dramatic shows have about seven seasons before they turn into that infected spinach that’s floating around. Two recent examples being The Shield and The Sopranos, both coming to an end in 2007 after seven strong seasons. Anything longer just tends to wear out the characters and really thin out what I referred to as ‘the body of work.’ I think the entertainment industry tends to ignore historically how the content will be seen in favor of more content. Ask a Rocky fan about the history of that franchise. The conversation will probably go something like, “Yeah, they’re pretty awesome…other than Number 5” as opposed to ‘Those movies are great!’ A comedic example would be (unfortunately) The Simpsons, which I think has lost about 10 mph on its fastball in the last five seasons.

-It is cemented that Chuck Klosterman is my favorite author. I’m currently plowing through his fourth book on pop culture, A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas. If we hit the rewind button three years ago in July, his book ‘Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs,’ was the igniter switch to get my Char-Broil writing grille going again. Someday, I hope to get the chance to thank him for that without fear of a restraining order, completing the circle that was started by last winter’s encounter with Bill Simmons.

-I love those ‘real men’ moments, especially this one from a few weeks ago. Myself and three friends were grabbing lunch and I heard a Norah Jones song come over the speakers, the same one that was the wedding song of uber-couple King and Donna. I told one of English language’s best friends and blog reader Clyde, “Hey, this was King and Donna’s wedding song.” The Cartoon, not missing a beat, turned to me and proceeded to call me a few unmentionable names before asking why I remembered that. I answered that the song wasn’t originally played at the right time which almost threw Donna into a rage enough to stop her first dance with her husband and strangle the D.J. Clyde’s reply: “Oh. You’re still a fag.” Ahhhhh, friends.

thanks for reading,
nason

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There’s Something About MySpace

MySpace: either a dirty or welcome word when it comes to the majority of internet users out there. If you haven’t heard of it, I’ll start by welcoming you back from Pluto (which used to be a planet by the way) and attempt to explain it in 15 words or less:

Nason’s Dictionary: It’s an web-based networking system that individuals, bands or certain companies use to connect with people in a more one-on-one social fashion. Call it individual grassroots marketing in a much broader, global sense.

34 words. Eh, whatever.

Being a 28-year-old, I’m right in that age range that either love the internet or use it only as needed. My first real introduction to the Triple-W was in my freshman year at UMaine when I didn’t even own a computer and grabbing that elusive workstation to check your FirstClass was its own class….

Side note 1: For my UMaine peeps, remember this process? For me, that random computer room in the Union across from the stupid pool table/arcade room was THE prime spot. Tell me you didn’t do this a few times: waltz in around 1 pm (right after grabbing an individual pizza at the Bear’s Den and stopping by the Union to see if that elusive fraternity bumper sticker was there yet), watch the other few lurkers waiting for computers and then do ‘The Scan.’ This is where you’d survey the room and do a headcount, seeing if any spots were open. Positioning was key here as it was first-come, first-served, despite the ever-present room monitor (whose chair was way higher than it needed to be, by the way. It was like having a volleyball or tennis judge with absolutely no power. But I digress.). One false move and you were toast. I can feel an entire UMaine column coming, maybe around Homecoming time. There’s so much more to say about the defining period of my life that hasn’t been said yet. Back to our hero’s story….

….So, due to those early era internet lessons we all learned, some people got to be really leery of personal information on the ‘net while others embraced it. Chat rooms exploded and then cooled a bit as sexual predators and pedophiles do what they do and ruined it. In college, we had an instant messaging system called FirstClass that allowed you to see everyone that was on at the same time. Often, a late-night hookup could be made from this option, sadly not with myself but I’ve heard all the stories including one friend who made this practice a freakin’ art. Anyhoo, while my brother’s age group (21-ish) have embraced being ‘out there’ with pages like FaceBook and MySpace, our group is a bit comme ci, comme ca about the practice, which brings us to MySpace.

Side Note 2: No matter how much I love technology (like Kip at the end of Napoleon Dynamite), we are fast moving toward an era where communication through non-verbal means is preferred. Again, I harken to my younger bro who is amazingly comfortable with every type of e-communication possible and much like his older brother, prefers a quick text message to an actual phone call. There is something to be said for a simple conversation, but I worry that younger generations will turn away from the old-school ‘coffee shop’ approach for a more cyberspace-friendly environment that will turn face-to-faces obsolete. But as long as there’s free internet porn, I’m cool either way.

I heard about MySpace about six months ago and ‘built’ a page just messing around one night. Basically, it’s a personal page about yourself. You acquire ‘friends’ through asking other people on the site to accept a request by yourself to join your network. Then, it grows from there like a virus. You look at other people’s friends and then find more people you know. It’s an amazingly easy interface to use with everything you’d imagine you’d need. Some people add crazy backgrounds, music videos, YouTube clips and some, well, interesting pictures. It’s become a social phenomenon and is growing by the day. At last check, MySpace had over 108 million accounts, is an advertiser’s dream and was bought by Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch for over $500 million in 2004. Half-a-freakin-billion dollars. It’s here to stay, people.

As always, my gang of friends is completely split on the issue. Blog reader and resident nomad (is that a paradox?) CK just signed up Saturday after mulling the decision for a while. Within an hour, he had a few ‘friends’ and then began to surf around a bit, even begrudgingly threatening me for alerting him to something so addictive. Then, the jokes came from the other side of the issue, most centering around net addiction and things like that. Well, as a loyal user, let me list off a few reasons I like MySpace and think you should try it.

1 – It’s fun. Please insert any jokes you’d like about stalking people, especially young girls who shouldn’t be using a computer. Seriously though, I have a blast on it. I like checking out my friends’ various pictures, finding old acquaintances and leaving funny images on their comment screens. And really, why shouldn’t we be allowed to have fun on the internet, right?

2 – You’d be amazed at the people you’d find. Last week, I was looking in my high school ‘subgroup’ (you can choose your high school/college and then can do a search based on that) and saw a guy named Brandon with a multi-coloured VW bus. It turns out that the kid was a guy that grew up down the street from me way out in the sticks who I NEVER would imagine having an account. We shared a couple messages and that was that, but it was kind of cool. Multiply that story by a few hundred thousand and that’s really what MySpace is all about.

3 – Jenna Jameson is my friend. Actually, that’s really what MySpace is all about.

However, there are negatives. There are random spammers. Some people clog up their pages with a ton of videos, pics and obnoxious backgrounds to the point you can’t even read anything. And there are some strange people out there who will find you no matter what. But those are small little fleas on the back of the big dog known as MySpace. Bands are using the service more and more to spread their message, making it easier for fans and prospective labels to find them without spending huge marketing dollars. The Simpsons debuted the first eight minutes of their season premiere on MySpace (a nice co-marketing effort by Murdoch’s FOX network). As technology improves, it’s a matter of time before MySpace starts to become an even bigger part of our everyday lives. You may be thinking, “Yeah, right” but if I had told about you about Ipods or XM Radio years ago, you probably would have said the same thing.

Here’s my page. Check it out and who knows? Maybe you’ll be inspired to start your own. Just don’t forget to add me as a friend if you do…

Some other random thoughts for the week:

-Ever think and mull about a decision for a really, really long time and then a chain of events just makes the decision for you? It’s like having dark storm clouds clear out of your mental sky and be replaced with some light showers. I’m looking forward to sunny skies sooner than later.

-Two mixed martial arts classes and I’m still alive! So far, so good.

-I love the new Nike football campaign that features the high school football program that has NFL’ers like Vick, Tomlinson, Shula and others mixed in with normal high schoolers. Very well-thought out and a different spin on how to sell shoes. High school football is actually gaining a bit more prominence with advertisers thanks to movies like ‘Varsity Blues,’ book/movies like ‘Friday Night Lights’ and the new MTV show, “Two-A-Days.” The pigskin is big in New England, but nowhere near as big as Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and some other hotspots.

-I’ve found my perfect woman and it is Storm Large.

-Still haven’t caught ‘Beerfest’ yet. I’ve heard that it’s decent and funnier than Talladega Nights, one of the bigger disappointments of the summer that’s not called the Red Sox.

Thanks for reading,

nason

Airline Travel and The Two-Month Catchup

“I’m bringin’ sexy back
Them other boys they don’t know how to act
I think it’s special… what’s behind your back
So turn around and and I’ll pick up the slack.”

-Justin Timberlake, Sexyback

Airline travel is no fun anymore. Remember when you were growing up and going on a plane trip was actually fun? Now, it’s a major pain in the ass in every way possible. What began as major security measures after 9/11 have now turned a once pleasurable experience into a mind-numbing ordeal.

I once heard a train of thought that basically intimated that ‘the terrorists had won’ because of the hoops people have to go through to fly and the overall fear they helped instill in us all following 9/11. While I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, I think there is a little bit to that notion. Us Americans are constantly on the move, irritated by the slightest bit of waiting, hesitancy and being held up. Checking in, scanning through and getting on a plane is like sandpaper across our impatient asses. Now, imagine being able to irritate an entire culture by simply restricting their freedoms AND making them fear flying as a result? Sounds like a win-win for the bad guys, right? I don’t know if they planned it this way, but if so, they’ve succeeded. If you had told me a year ago that water would be restricted on airlines, I would have called you crazy. With restrictions about to get worse (it’s only a matter of time before laptops and other electronic devices like I-Pods are kyboshed from carry-ons), I can’t think of a less desirable travel option than to fly.

Other notes on flying (can you tell I recently flew?):

-Is there anything worse than kids screaming in airports? I was in Baltimore Thursday, awaiting a flight back to Manchester, and I thought I was a judge in a Crying Kids competition. You could FEEL the cringing from the people in line. This is what I have to look forward to? That’s why I always bring along an I-Pod, because the only thing worse are kids screaming inside the actual plane itself.

-Random Delay of The Trip: Waiting for a hour on the tarmac because a necessary light bulb had to be changed and five service calls to the mechanics went unanswered. The delay was longer than the actual flight itself (35 minutes). Unreal!

-Lonely Feeling Alert: Getting off the plane and seeing those people waiting for their loved ones, then realizing that there’s no one there for you. Say it with me: awwwwwwwwwwwww.

“I chime in with a ‘Haven’t you people ever heard of closing a goddamn door?’
No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality.”

-Panic At The Disco, I Write Sins Not Tragedies

So what’s been going on this summer? Well, I’ll give you the same version I’ve been telling most people: a lot of work. After a few conversations this summer, I realized that I never really wrote about my promotion here. Long story short, I was promoted in March when my boss surprisingly left to go home to New York. I now oversee the creative aspects of the team from game presentation to advertising to market research to database to everything else I could possibly handle. It’s definitely been an interesting experience so far and one that I think is preparing me for (say it with me, 20-somethings) Whatever Comes Next.

Side note: Through plenty of convos over the years, I’ve found that most of us Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers are extremely non-committal when it comes to careers unless we recently moved into a specific genre. It’s something about keeping our options open that is a defining characteristic of our generation. Don’t believe me? Remember this when talking to your friends. You’d be surprised.

My summer journeys, as they always seem to do, provided me plenty of time to think about the past, current and future. A lot happened as I looked back upon the last few months: a few weddings, some births, holidays, a few Sox games, plenty of hangovers and the usual mixed bag of fun that comes with summer. One recurring stream kept flowing through my head at all of these different events: the importance of friends and family in life.

Side Note 2: As I was writing that last sentence, I thought, “Did I write the same exact thing last year?” Well, not quite, but….

“I’m still with the Monarchs, now promoted to Director of Ticket Sales and Market Development. No, I don’t get games off now and it will still be a lot of long hours during the winter. But I now get to take some trips to other cities to observe their product and see how it can apply to our own. Sometime last year, I became interested in the ad/creative agency world and I did some informational interviews this summer with firms to see if that was even a possibility. While I didn’t get completely dissuaded, I realize that I need some more experience in order to really make the leap. As a result, I discussed this all with the team higher-ups and instead of shutting the door on me, they opened up some new possibilities including the afore-mentioned trips, more say and input on creative design and taking over responsibility on our website which just got added on to the pile last week. It seems that every year, I always say, “This is going to be the last year…this is it” and it never happens. Why? Because the team continues to work with me and help me shape my future. So despite the stress and missing out on functions (the Brewfest date is killing me to miss), it’s still aiiight to like what you do.”

No matter how many people hate the idea of blogging, it’s f**kin’ amazing to see what your thought were a year ago. Oh hell, let’s go TWO YEARS back.

That leaves me here, typing away at 10:11 on a Sunday night in a light retrospective mood. I think what this summer has taught me is that it’s ok to look to the future and start thinking about what could be next, to not settle just because it’s the right formulaic thing to do and that moving on is just what it says – moving on. I could rattle off a bunch of cliches, but in the end, the conclusion is still the same.

To me, I’m at that stage that all of us find ourselves at, actually very similar to a poker match: make a bold move or stay pat. The roads and houses are littered with people who have chosen not to take a big risk and now regret their choices because of it. Others are happy with just staying in the stream and not hedging too much to the left or right, avoiding detection and not raising any red flags. Myself? I’m not any type of rebel and hardly could be considered as someone that lives life on the edge (like those who actually tell people they are. If you have to tell others that you’re extreme, you’re not. Go drink a Mountain Dew and litter or something.)

What I do want is to be noticed and start breaking out and that trip out West showed me that there’s a lot of places to head to. Am I taking a nomadic trip across the U.S.A. in search of the American holy grail? Hardly. What I am doing is taking the first mental and spiritual steps toward a decision that will happen, whether I want it to or not. And you know, I’m very ok with that.”

Now that is bizarre. Back to the original point, the past two years have really struck home how important having your family and friends are. Because when everything else goes away (your great career, your social standing, your fancy car, your 401k), your F and F’s is all you have. I think a lot of take being truly ‘happy’ for granted in exchange for ‘kinda happy, but it could be better.’ I’m still not sure where I fall on this, but in my recent air travels, I saw ‘That Business Guy.’ You know who I’m talking about: late 30’s/early 40’s with a moustache, polo shirt, a cell phone on their belt loop and a look that says, “I’m all about business, baby.” (After saying this, my hope is that you break out laughing next time you’re in the airport. I guarantee you’ll see this person at least 10 times.) I know that I don’t want to be THAT GUY, but I’m not sure where I’ll fall on that scale. I’m probably like everyone else, but I guess I like to write about it a bit more than others.

One thing that has stuck with me recently was a comment made from a Buddy of mine when on vacation last week. I was discussing a mixed martial arts class (yes, that is correct) that I may take. After telling him about this, he said. “That’s awesome, man. Can you do me a favor though? Can you follow through with it?”

Wow. Like Bryan Adams said, it cuts like a knife. A throwaway comment with no ill will has stuck with me for days, not in a bad way but in a ‘Holy shit…really?’ type of way. I continued to internalize this and have made a conscious decision to really follow up with what I say I’m going to do, starting with contacting that trainer and booking an appointment this week to check out the class. I hope I can keep it up, especially with a choice I made this weekend that I expect to pursue early next year. (I wish I could go into details, but it hasn’t progressed and/or developed to the right stage yet.) By the way, if I find myself at this same stage in September 2007, feel free to throw stingrays at me. Not fatal ones like what killed Croc Hunter Steve Irwin the other day, but just some that will sting a little.

“He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young.”

-The Killers, When You Were Young

One of the great side-effects of taking a few months off is people asking, “When’s the blog coming back?” Well, three people, but who’s counting? Here’s a little preview of some subjects coming up:

-A trip around MySpace

-Battle of the Sexes (a much overdue piece)

-MTV: A 28-year-old’s view of an 18-year-old world

-The Nice Guy Syndrome…and a lot more!

Thanks for your support as Nason’s Blog goes into its third year of fun and frivolity. As always, tell your friends!

Thanks for reading,
Nason

p.s.: For any of you that have HBO, check out Dane Cook’s Vicious Circle show, the comedy concert he performed earlier this year in Boston. Two hours of funny shit….