Any Day Can Be Wednesday

Escapism: Sequential Art: refers to the art form of using a train of images deployed in sequence to graphically tell a story or convey information.  The best-known example of sequential art is comics, which are a printed arrangement of art and balloons, especially comic books and comic strips.


The term “sequential art” was coined by legendary comic book creator Will Eisner in his 1985 book Comics and Sequential Art.  In the book, Eisner provides analysis of comic books through demonstrations of principles and methods.  Technically, sequential art goes back a lot further than the advent of the comic book.  Way further back.  We’re talking pre-history now.  Cave paintings, through Greek and Roman friezes and columns, to Mayan codices, into tapestries and paintings, up to the invention of the printing press (when speech bubbles were developed), and beyond, eventually coming to what i’ll be focusing on now – comic books.

Yes, comic books.  Those things that all the summer blockbusters are based on.  The (former) four-color funny books. Now, before i go on, it bears mentioning that sequential art and comics are by no means limited to the capes-and-tights realm.  Comics really run the gamut of themes, topics, and content.  The term graphic novel is also used somewhat interchangeably with comics as well, and lends a bit more gravitas to the concept.  But at the end of the day, let’s face it – superhero comics are the bread-and-butter of the industry.

That’s not to say they’re the best kind, which is of course a matter of taste.  But if you say the word “comic book” to someone, chances are pretty darn good that the image that springs into their mind is individuals with extraordinary powers or abilities in colorful costumes fighting bad guys.  They’re our modern mythology.  They’re the catalyst for the question “if you had a superpower, what would it be?”

Incidentally, i would choose teleportation, hands down.  Often, people say “flight,” which is certainly appealing.  But i ask you: what could really do through flight that teleportation wouldn’t achieve?  Just teleport into the sky if you want that sensation, and make sure you’ve got one of those funky flying squirrel-esque wing suits.  Plus you could do all sorts of funny things like wait until the sun is coming up and pretend like you’re a vampire who fades away in the sunlight.  Or walk around the Louvre in your underwear and let the security guards monitoring the camera wonder “comment at-il ici?”  

Comics as a subculture fascinates me.  It’s probably not much different than other subcultures in terms of having its own jargon, idiosyncrasies, rituals, and traditions.  But i’m pretty firmly in the comic book nerd camp, so it’s one that i’m more familiar with.  One of my favorite insider situations just happened to me last week.  It’s that scenario where you discover someone else, maybe someone you already know, is a fanboy just like you.

Before work one day, i had some extra time on my hands and stopped at the coffee shop where i’ve spent countless hours over the last…geez it’s been something like 20 years now.  That might not have been the case had the ownership not changed shortly after i started hanging out there, because a friend and i got kicked out for playing Magic: The Gathering.  The proprietor told us he wanted his cafe to be “a place of light, and that game is bringing dark energy.”  i felt like saying “hey buddy – my decks are blue and white!”

Anyway, i’m sitting there last week, making some notes about the interview i had planned (which you should definitely stop back here this weekend to read).  In comes a guy who i work with.  He had the day off.  Now i already know this guy is a nerd (don’t worry – if you’re a nerd, being acknowledged as such is a compliment).  We’ve chatted about science fiction and role-playing games before, but nothing too in-depth.

“Hey Dave,” i said as he made his way to the counter.  “What brings you out here?”

“It’s Wednesday,” he said, gesturing slightly with his head, the conspiratorial nod.  i knew what he meant.  He followed up, just in case i didn’t.  “New comics day.”

And there it was.  The secret handshake of all comics fans.  The code word that explains everything about your agenda on that particular day of the week.  The day when new books are on the shelf.

It’s Wednesday.

Says it all.

And boy did it define my mid-week activities for oh…a couple of decades at least.  That’s another thing i’ve noticed about us comics fans – the Wednesday ritual.  Every one has got one, at least i’m pretty sure they do.  You go to get your books, and then hurry off somewhere to devour them in your own special way.  The ritual can change over time, go through phases, but it’s there in some way.

As a kid, in elementary school, my Wednesday ritual used to take place on Friday by circumstance.  Every Friday night at my school they hosted bingo games.  After school, a group of us volunteered to set up all the tables and chairs in the gymnasium, and then we’d return in the evening after everyone had left to take them down.  Once everything was set up, they’d pay us $10 and a soda, and the same plus a bag of chips to take them down later.

And every Friday, after getting that $10, i furiously pedaled my bike directly to the comic book store for my fix.  Back then $10 went quite a bit further than it does now, so i could really stock up on three, four, five books or more.  My most vivid memory from that era was theInfinity Gauntlet story arc from Marvel Comics.  My collecting habits were somewhat unsophisticated at the time.  Basically i just picked up whatever looked cool.  So you’ll notice i started reading this story when it was already four issues in.  But as you’ll find out a bit later, diving into a series became a hobby of mine later on, and the hunt for back issues a satisfying game.

If i’m totally honest, i had no idea who this character even was at the time.  Observant viewers of this summer’s blockbuster Avengers film might have a leg up on the 12-year-old version of me.  Looking back now, i see what they did there.  Well played, cover designer.  Well played.

Comic books played a major role in my life earlier than the halycon days of elementary school too.  Much earlier.  Comics are the medium through which i learned to read.  After plumbing the depths of my memory and poking around a bit, i’m almost certain that the first printed words i ever comprehended were in 1981, age 3, in Captain America #253:
Back then, my older brother was a huge comics fan as well.  He had pilfered milk crates from 7-11 in our shared closet that were stuffed with them.  Thinking back, i can’t imagine they were in any sort of logical order, instead just stacked up and crammed into the remaining space.  Weird War Tales lay atop Green Lantern/Green Arrow.  The X-Men were hanging out with the Justice League.  No bags and boards.  It was nuts.  Maybe it was some internal cataloging system that made sense only to him, or maybe he just didn’t want me touching his stuff.  Probably the latter.  But i did anyway.
Once in a while, our mom would read comics to us.  Usually this was after a trip to the grocery store, because my brother and i would spend most of the time in the magazine aisle, at the rotating comic book rack.  Whatever we didn’t finish reading at the store, we’d slip into the cart.  Neither of us went in for Archie and Veronica though – it’s was all about Marvel and DC.  So the day comes when my brother and i are planted on the couch to either side of our mom.  She’s reading the Cap book to us, about his adventure in England helping an old friend with what turns out to be a vampire problem courtesy of Baron Blood.  Now, i don’t recall exactly which panel it was – my memory’s not that good – but i distinctly remember looking ahead a few panels and i could understand what was in the balloons!  Needless to say, it did not come as much of a surprise when Cap used his shield to behead the nefarious bloodsucker.  i’d already read that part.
By the time i’d reached my 20’s, you’d better believe i had quite a collection of my own going on.  My relationships with others has always been a bit on the transitory side, so maybe i fell into comics a bit more heavily because of that (or maybe vice versa?).  At any rate, i couldn’t get enough of the things.  And my favorite aspect of them, as a hobby, was the hunt.  While at the comic shop, i’d come across a book that looked cool, and let’s say it was issue #40.  Back at home, upstairs in my room, i’d ravenously consume it.  How did i ever miss this?  No matter – better late than never right?  And so the hunt begins.
Recent issues are easy – the last two or three are typically still in the new books section or at least close at hand.  Then it’s time to hit the back issue bins.  That process usually goes pretty smoothly as well, and the next thing you know your collection of a particular run is looking pretty substantial.  But there’s always those missing issues you can’t find.  The gaps in the collection – issues #12, 25, and 32.  Why are those missing from the bin?  Are they really awesome?  Better start expanding your search to other comic shops.  As a side note, this is pre-Internet days here.  You younger comic collectors and your Internet are missing out.
At some point, you’ve collected nearly the entire run and you’re feeling pretty good about it.  Except for the crown jewel – issue #1.  Maybe you came across it at some point, but it was selling for $20 or more.  Are you willing to shell out that bingo money for the satisfaction of completion?  If you were me, then yes.  And then you get older, and start earning more income, and it’s not even a question.
Now, lest you imagine i’m writing this from a room, sitting at a desk surrounded by stacks of longboxes filled with boarded-and-bagged comics, i have something to confess.  They’re all gone.  Yep, all those years spent vigorously collecting are in the past.  i crossed the threshold that probably every comic collector faces at some point – whether or not to sell the collection.  In my case, i did, but not because i lost interest by any means.  My collection was sold along with literally everything else i owned except what fit in a rugged backpack to finance an adventure through Europe back in 2001.  It was a strange, exciting time.
The loss of my collection did not diminish my love for comics though.  And i certainly didn’t shed the load because i felt like leaving those childhood things behind was a rite of passage into adulthood.  On the other hand, since then i’ve noticed that when i’m thinking about comics, usually i’m wondering what the heroes do when they’re not dispensing vigilante justice.  They’re still supposed to be real people in their universes right? If the adult-me has any influence on my perceptions of comic book heroes, it’s this – i don’t understand the reasoning that connects the acquisition of extraordinary power with the penchant for donning a costume and putting yourself in dangerous situations for altruistic purposes.  Maybe that makes me sound like a jerk, but if i gained some kind of super power, i don’t think i would make the leap to “hey i should dress up and go out at night looking for trouble!”  More likely, i’d try to think of some way to exploit what i could do.  Maybe that’s how super villains get started.  To be fair to both sides though – and this is especially true of technology-based bad guys – why don’t they just patent their diabolical devices instead of getting the crap kicked out of themselves trying to rob a bank with them?
By this point, if you’re still reading, my guess is that some of you are thinking “what did I get myself into?  This thing is long!” <that’s what she said>
So how about we break it up into two segments.  There’s even a nice transition from this point, because like countless other comic fanboys, i too have dipped my toe in the comic creation pool.  So you can rest easy now – you’re almost to the end.
When i started writing on this particular topic, if i’m honest i wasn’t entirely sure where it would go.  Certainly, i figured it would be more meaty than some other stuff because frankly comics are a big part of my life so i knew i’d have quite a bit of rambling to do before i got somewhere.  To keep on point, the basic idea was comics as a form of escapism.  So if you’ll indulge my spin on that, i’d contend that comic books, despite the solitary nature of the enjoyment of them, give fans a bit of escapism on two fronts.
The obvious nature of comics is that they offer a fantasy world.  They are full of heroes and villains who struggle endlessly in what Superman has often described as the never-ending battle.  Comics give us examples of heroes we can look up to and be inspired by.  Some of them, like Superman, are practically flawless heroes – idealized versions of what it means to be a good person and always do the right thing.  Others, like Spider-Man, show us that even people with problems, foibles, or every reason not to do the right thing all the time can still triumph over adversity.  And hopefully, by getting involved in their world, we can take some of that back with us and be better people.
In another way, comics give us a little escape from reality when we connect with others who share that passion.  As i mentioned earlier, there’s a subculture of comic book fans out there from all walks of life.  And a good portion of us don’t wear our dedication on our sleeves (maybe on our chests though – t-shirt merchandising is pretty big).  There’s a special moment when you meet someone else who’s into comics.  It doesn’t matter what you thought of the person before that, if you had any preconceived notions, or even if you particularly liked them much.  Inevitably, an immediate bond is formed.  You talk about your favorite characters, what kinds of comics you liked, and when you first got into comics.  Believe me – everyone remembers when they got into comics.  And anyone into comics will take a few moments to shoot the breeze with you about it.  They’ve shared your experience escaping into that other world.
*     *     *     *     *
You made it!  Congratulations, you toughed it out.  That jaunt down memory lane was pretty fun for me.  Coming up, i am looking forward to Part 2 of this discussion on comics – my own experience as a creator.  i think you’ll enjoy it too. There’s a lot more pictures to look at.
Also ahead is my interview with Paul O’Connor.  Some of you may already know about him if you’ve followed the link from here at The Long Shot and checked out Longbox Graveyard, his awesome comics-related blog.  Paul is a fascinating guy that does so much more too.  He was super cool about speaking with me and i can’t wait to share his story with you.
Thanks for visiting!
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Plenty of Thanks to Go Around

Thanksgiving: a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, on the fourth Thursday in November (or the second Monday of October, in Canada).

A day to give thanks for what we have, and eat a lot of food.

One thing i am thankful for: gainful employment, to which i must now adjourn…

 

…more to be thankful for later…
*     *     *
Okay so it’s a day later, rather than later the same day.  The gratitude of yesterday kept snowballing so i rolled with it.  If i’d stopped to record it for posterity, some crucial thankfulness may have gone unnoticed.  But now it’s post-holiday life-as-i-know-it.  A good time for reflection, or a stroll through the chronological park of Thanksgiving 2012 to find all the things that are worthy of thanking.
As you can see from above, i had to work yesterday.  Normally this is something i would not find the positives in, considering it was a holiday especially.  On a positive note, the place i work operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  It’s because of those hours of operation that i was able to return to school and work on earning my bachelor’s degree and still maintain full time employment.  So i’m definitely thankful for that.  You might not think so, given my penchant for grumbling about how challenging (i.e. pain in the ass) it can be at times.  In regards to yesterday, i’m thankful that my shift was in the day, instead of the usual night time shift.
Going to school is certainly something i’m thankful for.  After i graduated high school i went straight to college at Ashland University.  That was the first time i’d been away from home, on my own, same as it is for so many kids, and i loved it.  i’d be lying if i said i was homesick.  And it was a big change from the Catholic school education i’d received up until that point.  There was no uniform to adhere to.  No mandatory religion classes that i had to sit through, faithlessly wondering “does everyone else in here believe this stuff?”  No withering looks or statements in the morning like “you were out late last night.”  Everything was new, including me.  That was maybe the first time i felt like i could just be me in every way, and no one had any preconceived notions about me.  No one knew me, so i could be whoever and however i wanted.  That only lasted one school year though.  When i came home for the summer after my freshman year, i was told i wouldn’t be able to go back because it cost too much, and there wasn’t any way to pay for it or get a loan because my mom had lost her job.
Naturally, i was bummed, pissed, and angry.  But i am thankful for the experience, for what it was worth.  From that point, i bounced around quite a bit.  Got an associate’s degree from the community college, matriculated to Kent State University.  Right away at KSU i had to choose a major, because all the general requirements were fulfilled through the associate’s degree.  It was Big Decision time, so i got a copy of the course catalog out and started going through it from front to back, narrowing down my choices like i was ordering dinner at a restaurant.  Finally, i got to Journalism.  The description of the major said something about how it prepared students for a real life career as a professional writer.  That clinched it for me and i didn’t make it past that entry.  At the time i was heavily into Wizard magazine, a publication dedicated to comic book news, and that was where i intended to work after graduation.  On a road trip later that year, a friend and i got tremendously lost trying to find their offices in Congers, NY.  We never found it, but we did visit the Big Apple for the first time, confirming what i suspected would be an immediate love affair between the Capital of the World and me.  And we did a fan’s tour of Redbank, NJ where we visited the Quick Stop made famous by Clerks, and other landmarks from the View Askewnivese.  i’m thankful for that trip, my first road trip.
A few years later, i abandoned my college career because of youthful idealism.  In one of my journalism classes, the professor explained what i now understand is agenda-setting.  This is the concept that the news “doesn’t tell you what to think, but what to think about.”  At the time, i thought to myself “sounds like news isn’t so objective after all.”  For whatever reason, that just really rubbed me the wrong way, and as youth is wont to do, i rebelled against it by dropping out of college.  That’ll show ’em!  Fast forward about a dozen years and here i am telling you about it while i’m back in school working towards the same goal i was then.  Except now i’m a much more neurotic, anxious adult who realizes that piece of paper is the real goal and it’s worth it to do what you gotta do to get it.  At least i think so, right now.  i hope so.  i’m thankful for the opportunity to find out.
Working in the day yesterday meant i was home on a weekday evening.  Another thing to be thankful about!  In fact just driving home, weaving between the cars of people returning from holiday celebrations, probably stuffed with bountiful food, maybe heading to their favorite watering hole to recover from a day spent with the family, i gave thanks as i always do.  It’s already dark.  The sun has already set – no final fading rays shimmering on Lake Erie when i round the bend of the Shoreway and feel the pull of home go taut in my heart.  i hit the ramp just next to Cleveland Browns Stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, thinking to myself for the umpteenth time that the museum enshrining music history looks a little too 80s for my taste, a little too art deco, a little too Nagel.  Maybe that’s what they were going for.
i’m thankful for where i live, in Lakewood.  Since i was younger, a teen, probably years before that even, i always wanted to move away from where i lived.  The idea of growing up and settling down in the same town was (is!) anathema to me.  That’s certainly the impetus for the adventuresome streak of my 20s – buying one-way tickets to Europe, moving to Big Bear in California, and so forth.  And while, yes, i’ve snapped back to the Cleveland area like a reflex action each time, i am so thankful for migrating to the city’s west side at least.  It’s very different over here, and feels more like where i’m supposed to be.  It’s the first time in my life that i’m proud to declare the city i live in.  Where i went to high school, as far as most people thought, i might as well have said i lived in a DMZ when i told them i lived in Euclid.  i remember talking with someone one day in high school.  i mentioned that i’d taken my dog for a walk the night before.  His name was Gibson, a Shetland Sheepdog.  My brother and i named him after Jean-Claude Van Damme’s character in Cyborg.  My stepdad thought we named the dog after him (Gibson was his middle name).  Anyway, i’m done with my dog-walking anecdote, and this is the take away from the audience: “You live in Euclid? And you went out at night?!”
 
Those are some of the bigger ticket items to be thankful about.  The larger scale stuff.  On the other end of the spectrum are tens, hundreds, thousands of little things that make me grateful.  They’re all the things that shape my philosophy about outlook, about negatives and positives.  So much of my life has been mired in the negatives, either responding to it externally or struggling against it internally.  So many of the people in my world growing up seem to have the idea that life is a competition of who is more miserable.  You stubbed your toe – they broke their foot.  You had a rough day at work – they got fired.  Traffic made your commute take 20 extra minutes – theirs took an hour, and their car broke down.  Perhaps they believe that sympathy means letting the other person know that your situation is even worse.  One day, it struck me that for a lot of humans, their way of connecting with other humans is through shared negativity.  Here’s an example:
i was taking the trash out one day.  i’m riding the elevator down from the 9th floor and it stops on the 6th floor to let another guy on who is also heading down to the dumpster with his trash.
“Did there used to be a compactor in this buildling?” i asked.  “The map of the floor plan shows one.”
“I’ve lived here 10 years,” the guy replies.  “Hasn’t been one since I’ve lived here.  It’s a pain in the ass to take out the trash, huh?”
“No,” i said.  “Not really.  It’s a chance to stretch my legs at least.”
By now we’re in the parking lot together, heading towards the row of dumpsters, including the one dedicated to recycling.
“Sucks to have to separate your trash,” the guy said.
“Well, you don’t have to,” i reply.  “And i’m happy to see they have recycling.”
“I hate coming out here, especially when it’s cold,” the guy makes another appeal to my negativity.
“It’s not such a big deal,” i said.
The guy then scowled at me, shook his head, and walked back to the building briskly to avoid me.  For a moment i stood in the parking lot, mostly to give him a chance to get away from me.  Where the hell do i get off not sharing his dislike for every aspect of taking out the trash?  It occurred to me then, maybe that’s how he relates to the world and makes connections with people.  If he hates something, maybe other people do too, and they can talk about it and feel more secure.  It dawned on me then – seems like there’s a lot of people for whom that may be true.  For whom the dichotomy of good things and bad things leans heavily toward the latter.
i look at it like this: in the whole history of the world, there have always been good things and bad things happening constantly, everywhere, all day and night.  In fact, it’s not even really a dichotomy, as these things overlap and depend on perspective (e.g., what’s good for one could be bad for another).  Some people tend to only look at the positives, and they’re often considered naive.  Some only look at the negatives, and these are cynics.  The best way lies probably in the middle, as it does with all things – in moderation.  But when it comes to making connections with other beings, i’d prefer it be through mutual recognition of the good things in life.
Wow, even i got lost there.  Where was i going with that?  Oh yeah, the little things to be thankful for.  Like insights into human behavior gleaned from taking out the trash.  Or the unlimited space of the Internet that let’s me ramble on ad nauseum about…whatever.  Or the feeling that you’re never too old to try something new, change something about yourself, change your mind, change your world.  Okay maybe not such little things after all.  But everyone has their laundry list of things to be thankful for, so i’ll spare you mine.
Instead, i’ll tell you what i am most thankful for, that surpasses health, home, and higher education.  Heart.  Yep, when it comes down to it i’m a big softie, sentimental, a tad on the sensitive side.  The thing i am most thankful for everyday is love.  i don’t need a special annual event to remind me about giving thanks for it – it’s the first thought i have every day when i wake up and the last one i have before i go to sleep.  It’s the thing that makes me realize how lucky i am every moment.  It’s the thing i’m most proud of, and the thing that is most challenging, and the thing that is most valuable.
More specifically, i’m thankful to have my terrific girlfriend Melissa in my life.  We’ve been together for almost 8 years now, the best years of my life.  She is my best friend, and probably the only person i’ve ever known with whom i can truly be myself in every way.  She is beautiful, and honest, and funny, and smart.
Sometimes, when we’re getting ready to go out, we’ll end up dressing very similarly.  She’ll say we look too alike, we look like male and female versions of the same person.  Well, duh!  Maybe that’s superficial, what we look like on the outside, but i think it speaks to something deeper than that.  She’ll say jokingly “you’re just trying to be like me.”  Unconsciously, that might be true.  On the other hand, striving to be so wonderful is not such a bad thing, right?
We don’t share too many of the same tastes in entertainment or things like that, but at our cores i feel like we’re one soul in two bodies.  What we value, how we see the world, our goals, and ambitions – those are the things we share.
On occasion we have our rough spots.  Of course, i understand that is perfectly natural.  i don’t think anyone in a relationship goes any length of time without them.  But i’m happy to say that one of our greatest assets is the communication between us, so we never resort to angry words and nastiness.  Because what’s the point in that?  i’m so thankful that we’re both so willing and able to talk clearly about what we’re thinking and feeling that allows the other person to appreciate a new perspective, and grow, and become better people.  In the final analysis, it’s how you deal with those rough spots that makes going forward more positive.
Overwhelmingly, those rough spots are outweighed by all the passion, laughter, and love.  The connection between us.  The little notes we leave each other, hidden throughout our home.  The way we miss each other after moments apart.  The surety that “this is someone i can trust with my life.”
She’s my sweetie, my soul mate, the great love of my life.
That’s makes every day a day to give thanks.

Update: one more thing to be thankful for: over 1000 unique visitors to The Long Shot!  i started doing this just shy of two months ago and i don’t have a clue where exactly it’s going, but that made me feel pretty good to see.  So a special thank you to the 1000th visitor, whoever you are, and to everyone else who stopped by before and since.

The Persistence of Anthony Snitzer

Videography: the process of capturing moving images on electronic media, including video production and post-production.  It is analagous with cinematography, with the images recorded on electronic media instead of film stock.

There’s an article from the New York Times in 2011 headlined What Your Beard Says About You.  The part that most stuck out to me was the author saying that “to many bosses, a beard is a dangerous sign, like a neck tattoo or a pierced nose, that says ‘I am a free spirit.'”  After knowing Anthony Snitzer since 2003 when he was conscripted to work on a film of mine (Bad Service) and watching his burgeoning career as a videographer, i’m happy to report that he now sports a rugged salt-and-pepper collection of facial follicles.  It’s a sure sign that he’s climbed a few rungs of the ladder to his dream.  No longer a computer programmer, bartender, or server who engages in videography in his spare time, this 43-year-old husband and father of four is now the Director of Video Programming for Rover’s Morning Glory, a syndicated morning drive-time radio show on Cleveland’s rock station WMMS.  Working for the program was an unlikely move for Snitzer.

“A couple weeks before I got hired, I was talking to Debbie, my wife,” Snitzer said.  “We listen to Rover occasionally.  Something came on, and they were yelling at each other.  I said ‘I would hate to work on that show.  It was literally two weeks before I went for the interview.  I hadn’t applied yet.  I wasn’t even thinking about it then.”

Snitzer made it clear that he works for Rover’s Morning Glory — not Clear Channel Communications, the San Antonio mass media company that syndicates the program.

“He interviewed me specifically,” Snitzer says of the show’s host, Shane French.  “I don’t exactly know why I got the job.  Probably because of the wide variety of things I’ve done.  I didn’t just do editing, or shooting.  I kind of did everything.  Especially from Bad Service.  I got to do everything.  It was the first thing I’d ever completed.”

When i first met Snitzer, Bad Service was in early pre-production, just a first draft of a screenplay and a crazy scheme to make a feature length film on severely limited budget (i.e. none whatsoever).  Around that time, Snitzer and his family lived in Pittsburgh, where he attended film school at Point Park University.  While going through some difficult times there, he and his wife decided to return to the Cleveland area.
“I was there for a couple of semesters, and we ran out of money,” Snitzer said.  “I think we made the right decision.  We paid off our bills and came back.  During that time, that’s when you guys were writing Bad Service.  I’d come back and got an email saying ‘we’re working on this thing.  You want to shoot it?’ That summer we shot was the rest of my film schooling right there.”
Prior to that experience, Snitzer struggled to find his niche.  His duty to his family is the most important thing to him, and it was difficult to balance his desire to pursue his creative passions and his responsibility as a parent.
“It’s tough,” Snitzer said.  “I had my kids, and a wife.  You can’t just drop everything and go do whatever you want.  When I was a kid, I moved around a lot.  It’s not in my DNA to settle.  But my family is everything to me.  And I think my goals and everything I want to accomplish will help everyone in the long run.  And it’s cool now that my kids are older.  I don’t think it’s too late to start a whole new career.  They’ll understand.  I’ll be 50 when they’re all graduated from high school.  That’s still young.”
Snitzer credits his wife Debbie for much of his strength and motivation.  They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary.
“She’s awesome, she’s my best friend,” Snitzer said.  “We’ve grown together.  Which is cool about our relationship.  We started out at a certain place.  We were both little punk rockers, and we’ve grown together almost exactly the same.  We share the same values and views.”
On a personal level, what drives Snitzer is an ambition to leave his mark in the world.
“I want to leave something behind,” Snitzer said.  “I want to do my own feature film, writing and directing, because I have personal stories I want to tell.  My ultimate goal is to create something of my own.  I’ve done a couple of things, but I have not done the thing I want to do yet.”
Snitzer cites Bad Service as his favorite thing he has done to date.  This is surprising, coming from someone who has since worked on films like Fun Size and Avengers, had his animated film Banana Seat selected for the Cleveland International Film Festival, won best cinematography in the Cleveland 48 Hour Film Festival for Closer Than They Appear, garnered attention through music videos he shot for Cleveland hip hop artists Smokescreen, and more.
Avengers was awesome,” Snitzer said.  “But Bad Service there was just so much…maybe because nobody has really seen it?  Which we should fix.” He enjoyed being so heavily involved in every aspect of the film from start to finish.
It’s important to note here that there would be no Bad Service for people to see, or not see, were it not for Snitzer.  Other than the cast and maybe one or two other titles, every name in the credits is his.  The shooting, editing, audio, special effects, you name it — all Snitzer.  That fiercely independent spirit and willingness to go to great personal lengths springs directly from his role models in the film world.
“For inspiration, it has to be Robert Rodriguez,” Snitzer said of the filmmaker he most admires.  “Especially from reading his book Rebel Without a Crew, you think ‘I could do this. I could do that. I could do everything.‘ He shoots.  He edits.  He writes and directs.”

In regards to this, that, and the other things, Snitzer’s website functions as the hub for his career, showcasing the work he’s done in animation, cinematography, editing, motion graphics, and video effects.  Visitors to his site can view samples of his work, and links direct users to other Snitzer-centric locations like his Facebook pageLinkedIn profileTwitter pageVimeo account, and IMDb entry.  The Internet and social media play a big role in networking and getting your work seen.

“It’s super easy to get in contact with anybody,” Snitzer said.  “At the same time, people are seeing stuff that I shot here [in Cleveland], they’re seeing it all over the world.  When I post something new, like the Avengers blog, I got a lot of hits from Avengers fans.”

“If you get the right person to play something, you’re set,” Snitzer said.  “That’s really what it is.  But it’s not just about advertising yourself.  If you give the audience something to share, something they can take from your film that means something personal, something to make them actually care about the film and the filmmaker, something to latch onto, then they’ll share it with their friends.”

“When people think ‘this guy’s doing something I really like,’ or ‘this guy’s just like me: he was a waiter and now he’s shooting a film,’ that’s cool,” Snitzer said.  “People actually care about the people making the film now, the people behind the scenes.  They [filmmakers] keep up on social media.  They post about their movie, and what they’re doing.  People talk to them, and they talk back to fans.  That’s just amazing to me.”

Interactivity through social media has also aided Snitzer with what he sees as his biggest challenge: shyness.

“I always tell Debbie, if I got over that, I’d be made,” Snitzer said.  “I’d be made in the shade.  It would be so much easier because I think I’m pretty creative, and I have good ideas.  But nobody knows those things because I don’t tell anybody.”

“Also, not knowing…there’s no blueprint for what I want to do,” Snitzer added.  “Everybody makes it in Hollywood a different way.  I try not to burn bridges, and network, and keep in contact with people I’ve met or worked with.”

Snitzer’s best advice for anyone interested in filmmaking is a theme evident throughout his own life experiences and pursuit of his goals.

“Just keep going,” Snitzer said.  “I’ve had tons of opportunities to not do this.  I could have stayed a computer programmer, and worked a 9-5 job, and had a nice house in the suburbs.  But that’s not what I want.  It’s hard to give advice though, because I’m not there yet.  I’m not where I want to be.  I’m on the way, I think.”

On the way, Snitzer continues to do work and stay informed on the cutting edge of technology.  He has several freelance projects going on, a couple of writing projects, and is planning another animation project.  Working on a children’s program also interests him.  He also hopes to resume his working relationship with Marvel Studios and get on the crew of Captain America: The Winter Soldier when the production will be filming in NE Ohio in 2013.

In the meantime, he’ll continue his role with Rover’s Morning Glory, as well as with Turnstyle Films, a Cleveland film production company with an expanding portfolio of short films and music videos that plan to begin production on their first feature length film in 2013.

“Just gotta keep trying,” Snitzer echoes his earlier sentiment.

*     *     *     *     *
And that’s interview #2 for you.  It was a real pleasure to speak with Anthony for nearly two hours and get his perspective on everything from moving around a lot as a child to the state of the film industry.  Since i’ve personally worked with him in the past, i’m well aware of his dedication to his work, an example i’ve often used to keep myself motivated.  Seriously, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more intuitive, more eager to learn and improve, and more capable of putting enormous effort into whatever project he takes on.
The best thing someone can learn from Anthony is that there’s a way to do whatever it is you set out to do.  In regards to his specialty, videography, it’s quite astounding how innovative and creative he can be with little to no resources, just his imagination and considerable hard work.  The time i spent working with him is a treasured memory that i hope to experience again someday.
In the meantime, i’ll be following his career as he continues to move forward to bigger and better things.  i hope that you do too.
Later this week, stop back for a break between interviews to explore some other interesting topics.  The end of the semester at school is approaching and time will be crunched more than usual.  But i’ll do my best to squeeze in as many interviews with other people doing their own media thing.  There’s a guy i met recently who just started his own local news website, an old friend with a brilliant satire news publication, a really really old friend working as an actor in NYC, and more on the slate.
Thanks for visiting!

Sports Talk With Jacob Guinn, or ‘Why Did It Have To Be Sports?”

Sports Radio: a radio format devoted entirely to discussion and broadcasting of sporting events.  Characterized by often-boisterous on-air style and extensive debate and analysis by both hosts and callers.

On November 7, i got to cross a name off my list when i talked with Jacob Guinn, 29, of Willoughby, Ohio about his new Internet radio show C-Town & Down.  Jacob is a guy i know from work.  Around there he’s known for his hot temper, and this extends to the sports talk radio program he recently launched through Cleveland Sports Fan Radio.  Their mission is to give Cleveland sports fans a voice in the condition and management of their teams.  The  studio is open to anyone, with any level of experience.  Participants can arrange to do live scheduled shows from their studio for a fee (in Guinn’s case $25 a month), and receive support from their producers and equipment.  CSF Radio will also broadcast Cleveland sports podcasts in their rotation for free as along as it is current and focused on Cleveland sports.
Guinn spent the summer months setting up the schedule for his show and preparing for his first broadcast.  On Nov. 1 he was live on-air.  Every Thursday night from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. Jacob and his co-host Dave Jack share their thoughts on the status of Cleveland sports.  As a caveat, i should mention that of all the myriad things i know at least a smidgen about, sports is not one of them.  Sports is my trivia kryptonite, so even though i’ve made a point to tune in to all of Guinn’s broadcasts, they could have been speaking another language for all that i knew.  i suppose, in a sense, they were.
Despite my lack of understanding, i nevertheless detected the same boiling commentary on sports that i’ve so often been privy to on the job together with Guinn.  But that’s exactly why, even if i don’t know what the heck he’s talking about on his show, i know he’s being honest.
That honesty extends to critiquing his own work.  When we spoke, his first show was already in the can and he’d been diligently preparing for the next one.  Looking back at his debut, he thinks it went okay but was quick to point out there’s things he would like to do differently.  He was disappointed that he didn’t get to all the material he’d planned.  Since the first broadcast, he’s been doing research and taking copious notes in preparation for the second show.  Although he was satisfied with the initial offering, he wants to improve every time.
“After re-listening to the show, there were a lot of things I could have done differently,” Guinn said.  “But for being the first show, I’m just nit-picking.  But if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right.”
Broadcasting is something Guinn only became seriously interested in over the last few years.  Although he doesn’t have any formal training or experience in broadcasting, he decided to take a chance when  the opportunity was presented to him.  It was only a couple of months after that initial conversation that found Guinn on-air for the first time, helming the Internet talk show.
“I’m the main host,” Guinn said with pride.  “It’s my show, and I have a buddy that I play softball with who comes on to help.”
As the show’s host, Guinn is responsible for making the final decision on the format of the show and planning the time blocks, which he does in 15 minute intervals that are broken up by commercial spots.  The station is a start-up endeavor, and Guinn takes his duty to provide quality content seriously.

“They want to make the station legit and move it into something bigger than what it is now,” Guinn said.  “My main goal is to have fun with it.  If it leads to something bigger down the line, that’d be great.  But it’s just one of those things to have fun with, to talk sports.  That’s pretty much the main goal — have fun.  You can’t be too serious about something like that.”

“If it leads to something else down the line, so be it.  If it doesn’t I’m not going to be too upset about it,” Guinn added.

Part of the format’s appeal, and by extension the opportunity itself, is the growing accessibility for mass communication.  Content creators have ever-increasing in-roads to media outlets that make shows like C-Town and Down possible.

“It may not be as big as an FM station, but people still listen to it,” Guinn said of the Internet radio format.  “You’re not going to have the numbers that you’d have on an FM or even AM station, but you’ll still have people who listen and give you input and feedback.  So it’s better than a podcast in that way.”

“If you look at newspapers and stuff like that, they’re kind of going down,” Guinn said of the trends in mass communication.  “The Internet and social media are way more out there all the time.  We have a website for the show, and a Twitter account (@CTownNDownShow).  There’s a chat room on the show’s website that opens up when the show starts.  I always have my cell phone and laptop up while we’re on the air.  So there’s a lot of ways because can get in contact with us and interact.”

That interaction takes place in the studio itself as well, with Guinn’s co-host, which he believes in an essential part of sports talk radio.

“If you’re going to do it, you have to have someone else that can argue their point with you but at the same time help you make the points,” Guinn said.  “Sometimes it’s one of those ‘agree-to-disagree’ kind of things.”

For a long time fan of the sports talk format, Guinn draws inspiration for his show from established broadcasters and looks to their example for ways to improve.  One broadcaster in particular serves as a role model for the kind of quality Guinn strives to achieve.

“I have to say my favorite sportscaster is Austin Carr, the Cavaliers’ announcer,” Guinn said.  “The things he comes up with during in-game are just crazy.  The words he uses you would never think a person his age would use.  He’s an older guy and you wouldn’t think he’d use the words he does.  He’s in touch.”

There’s a good chance that his role model in sports broadcasting influences Guinn’s favorite sport to watch.

“I have to say basketball,” Guinn said.  “Basketball is the #1 sport to watch.  It’s so action packed and it’s always non-stop.  In football and baseball there are these breaks and stoppages during plays.  Basketball is more fun to watch for the pure entertainment value.”

“I’m starting to get into soccer too,” Guinn said.  “I used to think it was boring or dreadful to watch after only a little while.  But I’ve gotten into it more now.”

While basketball may be Guinn’s favorite sport to watch, he did not hesitate on what is his favorite to play.

“Oh, baseball by far,” Guinn responded quickly.  “I played baseball in high school.  I play softball in the summer now.”

In speaking with Guinn, it is easy to see the kind of appreciation he has for all aspects of sports. When he gets heated on-air, it’s because of his passion for the games, players, coaches, and environment of sports of all kinds.  So it’s easy to understand why he jumped at the chance to start his own sports talk radio show.  It’s his way of participating in a more meaningful way, and he’s happy of the opportunity that CSF Radio gives him that he might not otherwise have.

“I just started doing this, and the benefit is that I can learn along the way while I’m actually doing it,” Guinn said of CSF Radio.  “Instead of going into a company like CBS or Clear Channel, I can learn from my mistakes and not get crucified for it.  It’s something I’m trying to learn on my own.  It’s a learning thing.”

“I didn’t have to go to OCB (Ohio Center for Broadcasting), or go to college and major in communications.  I’m getting that experience right now as I’m doing it.”  Guinn added.

The experience of broadcasting has already taught Guinn some important lessons.

“There’s two things: research, and just be yourself,” Guinn said.  “Make it fun.  Don’t make it so serious or boring that no one wants to listen.  I have to connect with people. You have to make it interactive.  You’ve got to make it so that everyone else feels involved, like they’re in it with you.”

That honest connection with the audience is something Guinn feels is directly related to his success or failure in the business.  Maintaining your honesty is his best advice for anyone else interested in broadcasting.

“No matter what you’re doing, just be yourself,” Guinn said.  “Don’t come across as fake, or jaded.  People will love you, and people will hate you.  As long as you’re being yourself, you know you’re doing it the way you want to.  People can tell when you’re faking, or trying to hard.  People see right through that, even on the radio.”

“That’s my #1 thing — be yourself,” Guinn said emphatically.

Before we concluded talking, i asked Guinn if he thought being himself would ever bring him into conflict with his audience.  With his penchant for hot-headedness, i wanted to know how he would handle it if someone in his audience strongly disagreed with him.  His response showed me that he’s got a good mind for promotion.

“Listen this Thursday,” Guinn said with a smile.

*          *          *          *          *
So there you have it.  That was my first interview in what will be a continuing series of interviews with people who are taking their own long shots in the media.  When i was making my list of potential interviewees, i was really surprised at how many people i already know who are engaged in their own projects.  Part of the reason, i believe, is because of all the technology we have available to bring our messages to wide audiences.
My interview with Jacob Guinn was really informative to me.  i know that Internet radio is certainly a growing trend, but it was interesting to discover how easily accessible it is.  For just a small fee, you can have access to a broadcast studio and the personnel to help get your show out there.  And if you have a podcast, you can broadcast for free through the station and still receive support.
i’d like to thank Jacob for taking the time to talk with me about his project.  Even though i only know him through our mutual employment, i can tell he’s got a lot of great ideas and such a passion for sports, and it’s really cool to see him taking on the experience of having his own show.  i think he’ll do great.
My next interview is already complete.  i talked with one of my good friends, and a guy who is a personal inspiration to me — Anthony Snitzer.  There’s a link to his website under “Stuff You Should Check Out” here on The Long Shot, right above the link to C-Town and Down’s website.  Anthony is a great guy with a great story, so i hope you’ll come back to check it out later this week.
Thank you!

So Many Stories to Unearth

Enterprise: a project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky; readiness to engage in daring or difficult action; a systematic, purposeful activity.

Returning to the original format of defining a term and including the top return on an image search, not surprisingly we find ourselves with the beloved USS Enterprise, designation NCC-1701.  This is the ship that carried Captain Kirk and crew through space on what is in my opinion the best of all Star Trek series.  The aptly named vessel most certainly exemplified the crew’s willingness to take bold action.
The term enterprise is also appropriate for what you’ll find here at The Long Shot going forward.  In fact, i’d like to think it works on a number of levels.
First, if you remember way back when i mentioned how a friend dubbed a group of associates the Longshot Brothers because of our penchant for diving into projects with low odds for success.  He didn’t mean it as a slam, at least i don’t think he did.  We didn’t take it that way at any rate.  What had we to lose by trying to accomplish some wild scheme?  If the odds were low enough, we were bound to succeed in some way.  And in fact we did.  Chances are you’ve never seen, or even heard of Bad Service.  But we did complete a feature length film for what it’s worth.  We had an enormous amount of fun doing it and learned a whole hell of a lot.  And i love the film.  Not because it’s a cinematic masterpiece, but because we did it all on our own from start to finish.  Creating it was fraught with difficulty, complication, and risk.  It was, like the other screenplays i’ve written myself or with a creative partner, like the comic strip and later comic book, like this very blog you’re reading right now, a fascinating enterprise.
It still makes me laugh.
Second, after today, i’ll be shifting the focus of the Long Shot away from me and onto other people.  What i’ll be doing is called enterprise journalism, which are stories that a writer unearths on their own in contrast to traditional journalism where stories are generated based off news or press releases.  The distinction between the two is that, where a traditional news story reports on events, an enterprise story seeks to find the forces that shape those events.  It would be fun for me to continue to wax philosophical about whatever topic grabs my interest on a particular day and imagine you’re all the better for having read it at the end of that day.  But what really interests me is finding other people like myself that have a strong desire for autonomous expression in media-related endeavors.  To that end, i’ll be sharing the stories of those other people with you.
Lastly, and this is directly related to the second point, i love the idea of creating media to share on a mass scale as done by people all on their own.  Because of all the innovative communications technologies available these days, it’s easier than ever to generate content, disseminate it, and receive feedback from an audience.  Even more than that, there is such an opportunity for creators to directly engage with their audiences.  i love that.  i made a list of all the people i know who fit the criteria: creating media content on their own.  i am happy to note that the list is pretty long and growing each day.  So to all the people i know who work on media-related projects of their own accord: be alert.  *You’re on notice: one day soon i’ll come looking for you.
So that’s where The Long Shot is at right now.  It’s me getting to do what i love (writing) about other people doing what they love (creating) and both things are presented in a format we both love (mass media).  For all of us, engaging in purposeful activity with an element of risk or daring is what drives us.  We want to be create, and be heard, and do our own thing without our messages getting muddled by outside forces.  It is a difficult challenge filled with complicated feelings.
Is it worth it?
Will it pay off?
Will anyone care?
We don’t know for certain where our projects will take us.  Probably not the same place we had in mind when we started.  But we will boldly go to wherever it takes us.
We are enterprising.
*If you are involved in a media-related project of your own and would like to share your story, please feel free to contact me.  i’ll add you to the list.

Do Your Thang

Kung Fu Fighting, part 2: In Chinese, kung fu literally means “work intensity,” and can also be used in contexts completely unrelated to martial arts.  Instead it refers to any individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long effort and hard work.

*i don’t have a snappy picture to illustrate this concept.  how about a quasi-related video instead:
 
The point that Sing (Stephen Chow in Shaolin Soccer) is trying to make here is that kung-fu is not something confined to martial arts.  This idea is also brought out in Mystery of Chess Boxing, the film i mentioned in Part 1, in one of the best scenes in the film where the hero is challenged by his school’s cook.
The more appropriate term for what we consider “kung-fu” is actually wushu, which encompasses the universe of Chinese martial arts.  In reality, one could say that someone has good kung-fu in any discipline, from cooking, to calligraphy, to calculating investment returns.
This idea of elevating any task to a discipline or art form is something that has intrigued me for a long time.  Back when i used to be a barista, probably the most rewarding job i’ve had if i’m honest, we tried very hard to maintain this ideology at the cafe.  Everything we did: grinding beans, pulling shots of espresso, even mopping the floor, we tried to make into a sort of kata, or routine.  The practical application worked very well.  Business boomed, our patrons truly enjoyed visiting our place, and the employees felt accomplished because we’d elevated our jobs into something more than meaningless labor or busy work.  It was fun.
This kind of ties into my nocturnal ramblings from last night actually.  Probably the main reason we were able to do things like that was because our cafe was autonomous.  It was owned by a laid back guy named Mark, a middle-aged former…something business-y that left all that to open a neighborhood cafe because he just really liked coffee and the kind of atmosphere they represented in the early 90’s.  Profits were up and everyone was having a good time, so he didn’t much care that the people who ran the place were flinging cups across the room, climbing the walls, and doing calisthenics while the coffee was brewing.
Someone told me the other day that they’ve enjoyed my blog so far, but they asked me “what’s it mainly about?”  My first reaction was kind of defensive.  “What do you mean ‘what’s it about?’  It’s about whatever i want it to be about,” was my response.  But they did have a point.  i took a look at what i’ve done so far, and there’s not really a strong common thread running through the thing.  This made me upset with myself.  i ought to know better than to expect any kind of following without identifying what it is anyone is supposed to follow in the first place.
It wasn’t until this morning that it more or less came together for me.
It’s about individuals doing their own thing.
i suppose when i began, i was more focused on myself: trying to paint a wide picture of myself and doing it in real time while anyone could watch it unfold.  But it very quickly started to look at things other people did that fascinated me.
Sky-diving from orbit, rediscovering life after addiction, the bridge between science-fiction and science fact, creating avenues for others to escape, performing music about something you love…these are all things that other people did of their own accord.  Things that fascinate, inspire, and engage other people.  Things that they accomplish with enormous effort, requiring them to develop skills to the level of art.  And through that “work intensity,” they’ve achieved something that i brought up early this morning: autonomy.
According the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, autonomy is pretty close to the top of the pyramid.  In other words, not something of absolute necessity like breathing, food, water, sex, sleep…basic physiological needs.  It falls under “Esteem,” which is our need for confidence, achievement, and respect.
There’s of course more than one way to fulfill those needs, but in my opinion autonomy is the strongest way.  At least for me it is.  That’s probably a good indication of why those individuals i look at as role models are those whose accomplishments are more or less a result of their own focus and propensity for self-governing.  That being said, an argument could be made that folks like Gary Gygax, Stan Lee, Felix Baumgartner, Carl Douglas, and so forth didn’t do everything all on their own – they had help of course.  But it was primarily their vision that drove whatever institutions aided them.
To that end, you’re going to see a refocus of The Long Shot.  Frankly, i haven’t done much that’s all that interesting to talk about.  At least not in quite a while.  That guy who a friend described as “taking chances on things” maybe got a little jaded when the odds didn’t work in his favor very often.  He’s still around, waiting in the train station for announcement of a new departure destination.  In the meantime, he’ll enjoy watching the redesign of the station and trains.
Instead, what you’ll find here going forward is stories about what chances other people are taking or took, and i’ll let them explain it.  So you’ll be getting a double bang for your virtual buck: you won’t have to plod through my rambling about random topics, and you’ll get some first hand exposure to some stuff maybe you never heard of before.  And i’ll still get my kicks because it’s still my little corner of the Internet and i get to write about them however i want.
Hooray for autonomy.
p.s. If you are one of the 4 Russians, 1 German, or 1 Canadian person who visit here every time i post something new, please write to me.  i’d like to find out who you are.
 
p.p.s. Anyone can write to me.  In fact, i hope to hear from anyone who is doing their own thing whether they’re on the other side of the globe or the other side of the street.  i just find it fascinating that those particular folks seem to visit with great regularity.