Monday, April 26, 2010

The 11 O'Clock News Promo as a Source For Comic Material

In my quest to someday become a viable comedian I have stumbled upon a real treasure trove. I'm speaking of the short five-to-ten second promo they do on my local TV stations for the 11 o'clock news, which usually ends with 'News at eleven!'
The reason I think its such a gold mine is that there really is no good news to report that late at night. Instead they bombard you with a host of no-shit-sherlock moments and bank on the fact that you won't know the difference.

Here's a few of my favorites; if you've got some of your own -- post them in the comments section.

West Virginia Social Worker claims incest rates are skyrocketing
in the wake of state sponsored home-schooling initiative.
News at eleven!

Goldman-Sachs charged with securities fraud. Other banks may soon be charged.
News at eleven!

Local child chokes on hot-dog at country fair.
News at eleven!

Man who won free McDonalds food for a year -- now weighs over 800 pounds.
News at eleven!

Real-estate lobbyist fights to stop traffic decongestion initiative.
News at eleven!

Authorities believe alcohol consumption may have played a role in tragic hunting accident.
News at eleven!

Tornado Strikes Funeral Home.
First responders say all occupants may be dead.
News at eleven!

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Ruined My Australian Vacation
On the very last day of my two-week vacation in Australia - I visited the famous big 'rock'.
After arriving at a scenic summit my wife said, "Oh look, an aborigine - lets go talk to him."
Feeling a little unease, I said sure - and we walked over to him and started a conversation.
Speaking in perfect English, the man said, "Hello, I am the chief of my people and I've come here to ask you some questions."
"Oh, how wonderful," said my wife; giddy with excitement.
The chief continued:
"When I was a young boy my granfather told me about his trip to this place. He described for me some scary things, and I wonder if they are still true. Will you take a moment to answer my questions?"
"Certainly we will!", answered my wife for both of us.
"My granfather said that in your tribe every day starts with getting into a horse and buggy and spending up to 30 minutes waiting to go to a place of work."
"Actually," I piped in, "there's no horse and buggy anymore; today we call those cars. But in principle its the same; except 30 minutes sounds like a fantasy. Sometimes in takes me hours just to get to work."
"I see", said the chief, "and when you get to your work, is it still true that you work all day long and come home when the sun is down?"
"Yes, that is still the same, except now my boss calls me on the cell phone and gives me more work to do via email."
"Hmmm.", Said the cheif. "Well so long."
"Wait!" I said, "I've got a question for you; why do you know so little about us and yet you speak perfect English?"
"Funny you should ask", said the cheif, "In my tribe we collect the best ideas from other cultures and make them our own. For years now in my tribe we've been watching DVDs of your 'Comedians'. Frankly, they are the only part of your world that makes any sense to us."
And with that he left.
With my wife.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Primacy of Learning
-- A Concept for Cubicle Dwellers and Managers

This post is dedicated to Jaime Escalante. Probably the best teacher who ever lived. He understood this concept probably better than anyone.

In my family there are a lot of teachers, so this concept has long been familiar to me.

The best way I know to explain it is by example, so here goes.

My cousin Lisa, when she was twelve years old tried lobster for the very first time. Unfortunately, she got a rancid lobster that made her ill. Twenty-plus years later she still gets violently sick when she gets the slightest whiff of lobster.

My wife also ate a rancid lobster and got sick. In her case, though, that was probably her 50th lobster. Since then, she has continued to have another 50 lobsters.

You might think that this idea is nothing more than the old cliche:
  • you never get a second chance to make a first impression
But its actually that and much more. A whole lot of brain-wiring occurs when you are first introduced to a concept. Undoing, or unlearning, that initial incorrect conception is a very difficult thing for a person to do.

Now that you've got the concept -- lets see how it might apply in cubicle land. You are a developer, lets say, who has noticed some really bad behaviors and consequences in another teams application. You start to put together a proposal for your supervisor on how it may be fixed. On the day you get to pitch your proposal you start your presentation with a description of the problem. Managers in the room are probably hearing about the issues you are raising for the first time. Before you can even get to a discussion of the solution you are being challenged by these managers who seem to be implying that you don't have all your facts straight. Somehow you manage to proceed and finish your proposal, but you feel fairly certain it won't be listened to.

A week goes by and it becomes clear your proposal is not going to happen. In fact, it is going to be completely ignored.

Months, perhaps years later, you learn that a co-worker got wind of your proposal and put their own special 'spin' on it to key decision makers in the room -- essentially front loading them with negative ideas.

And that's really what gossip and spin are; using the primacy of learning to ensure persons, problems, and ideas are pre-judged by various people.

The primacy of learning is why politicians do attack ads; usually the first time voters ever hear of a politician is in an attack ad by their opponent. It is used, though perhaps not 'intentionally' in many other places as well.

So how do you counter such schenanigans! Well, having a name for the problem and calling it by its name when you see it helps.

Naturally, its best to anticipate it -- and get your conception out first, if possible.

Failing that, you've got a lot of work to do.

Any comments or suggestions about that last situation (your idea was already pre-spun) -- would be greatly appreciated.