That’s What She Said (N’yuk n’yuk n’yuk)

Everyone loves to be a fan of something and everyone loves to belong to something. I find these very basic statements to be more true than ever to me as I navigate my lung disease. Since many previous avenues for social and creative real world interaction disappear as you learn the new ropes of your living your life with a life threatening disability.

I’ve found that a new type of fan experience has allowed me to share and learn like I did when I worked in the home video industry, as well as build new and lasting relationships that are needed as my old real world job related ones fade into the rear view mirror.

Physical real world fandom has been the norm for decades. Be it Ralphie (A CHRISTMAS STORY) using his decoder ring to decipher a product endorsement from LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE, Beatles Fans flipping their mop tops and tossing jelly beans at their idols on stage, or the then-latest teen idol on the cover of SIXTEEN and TIGER BEAT, fans and fan clubs have been our way of connecting to our passions. However, that connection was usually not much more than a package in the mail every few months and an assembly line autographed photo.

Every so often, the fan clubs or admiration societies would produce something more. BEATLES fan club members were treated to an exclusive once a year Christmas record that now sell for $100’s of dollars.

In addition, while many people know what a “bootleg record” is , and associate it with rock and roll, fans of Bing Crosby were trading and buying bootleg records of studio outtakes way back in the 30’s and 40’s. In other words, many fans clubs were simply commercial extensions of a brand, but a few found a way to get fans more involved and hence more passionate.

Of course, the object of the fan’s affection also authorized and sold many items with their likenesses on them. While most of the people who were members of a particular fan club over the years were content with getting a newsletter once in a while and then outgrowing the fandom, a select few built a passion that last through the years and manifests itself in unique ways.

We guys get stereotyped for what we like…a lot. We will love something that supposedly makes our female friends very confused as to why we do. One of the premiere “guy likes” are Moe, Larry, and Curly aka THE THREE STOOGES. We watch marathons, we imitate the N’yukiness of their actions, and we dare to be brazen and bold about it. In addition, we can celebrate a brand new feature film about them called (what else, knuckleheads?) THE THREE STOOGES!

In the Philadelphia area, we can manifest that boldness without fear of embarrassment. First of all, when any females accompany us to look at the fine art of Philadelphia, we can make sure that we fool them into going to South Street and makes sure that we walk, smiling and laughing, right up to the gigantic mural of LARRY FINE (a Philly native) that is above a restaurant called Jon’s at 3rd and South. HEY, PORCUPINE!

The heirs of the THREE STOOGES have tightly managed their legacy, so when a fan enterprise is anointed by them to exist, then it must be good. The second local treasure for local Stoogephiles exists at 904 Sheble La, in Ambler PA, THE STOOGEUM.

It is the world’s only authorized museum of THREE STOOGES items, with over 100,000 pieces of memorabilia. The items span from 1918 until now, and include an 85 seat theater to show STOOGE FILMS. It is also the headquarters for the OFFICIAL THREE STOOGES FAN CLUB.

I’m so ready to go, but you need to know that the museum is as unique as its subject matter. The main quirk is that it is only open 1 day a month, so to get your Stooge on, you need to plan.

However, this is a unique” fan experience” because it allows you to directly interact with other fans. You can find their website and more details at http://www.stoogeum.com/.

In the age of “now”, the internet has changed all of the rules of fandom. Yep, you can attend conventions and read fan newsletters. However, for the first time, the internet allows you to interact in real time with both the fans and , at times, the objects of adoration. This allows for spirited discussions, many of which will actually influence the future efforts of many of these people and projects.

Such is the case of people I met through the official NBC “THE OFFICE” fan website. Back during the 3rd Season, NBC set up a role playing site called DUNDER MIFFLIN INFINITY. The concept was that fans “worked” for the paper company at a series of virtual branches scattered around the world. Each branch had a manager and employees. Some branches had hundreds, some had a few.

At first, I joined, as others did, in disguise, playing a role and acting a part. We were an employee. However, the site went beyond just show related coloring activities. The site actually had team building exercises, effective fund raising activities, and truly creative assignments, some of which wound up on air. In other words, I found a work experience.

I was in charge of a branch in Allentown PA, chosen because it was right down the road from the show’s Scranton branch. We christened ourselves as THE CLOWNSIDE, in honor of Dorney Park’s Alfundo. We put on virtual parties and plays, created stories and projects, and just had a blast for over three years.

However, over time, the “play acting” dropped off and the employees started to open up as themselves. Yep, we all had screen names but we also all started to learn and care about each other. Many of the sites participants became friends, for me , many became lifelong supporting and treasured friends.

As we grew to know each other through our keyboards, we started to wonder about getting together in real life. The problem was that while we could be virtually geographically close to the Allentown branch, the real world commute was, for some, much farther. Taking the cue from other branches like the LONG BEACH CA branch, we decided to try to get together in real life. We decided to do a “company picnic” at HERSHEYPARK, since we felt the location was easy enough for a large part of the surrounding states to get to without too long a trip.

At our first “picnic” we had over three dozen attendees and were even covered in the press. We had a total of three Hershey picnics, which have since morphed into simple Central PA picnics. In addition, we also created a promotion for NBC to hold “premiere viewing parties” for the 5th Season of the show. Over 50 parties were held across the country, and we held ours at DAVE AND BUSTERS in Plymouth Meeting PA. We drew almost 45 people to the event.

To this day, I am still friends in some way with over 100 of these DMI employees and a couple dozen of them have become invaluable to me as I deal with my illness. These people care for me and I for them. They have superseded the anonymity of the internet to become true friends. Yes, some I have met in person, and some I am determined to meet and hug in person someday.

They come from all over the county, but they are as close as my keyboard and my heart. They have become my friends and when my spirits are low, as they are way too often, they are there, they are real, and they are loved.

They are a great part of the reason why I keep trying. I’ve always wanted to write about them publicly and shout to the world how great they are. With you indulgence, I just took the opportunity. And I will celebrate them forever.

THAT’S WHAT I SAID.

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Pulmonary Rehab Tales 9/7/11: Clout Vs. KLOUT

Note: At the end of this post are links to previous posts about my lung disease. I’ll keep these links at the end of each subsequent post or figure out how to add a Table Of Contents.

I got it, I got it … I ain’t got it

My award from the VSDA National Board Of Directors 2004

The award pictured above is from the VSDA (Video Software Dealers Association), which is now called EMA (Entertainment Merchants Association). For a brief time, they had a sub-group called iDEA (Independent Dealers of Entertainment Association)

Alphabet Soup.

The award was given to me for my three years of service on the National Board of Directors, a position I was elected to by hundreds of video retailers across the country. It followed years of working for the good of the home video industry since 1983, some of it done locally with other retailers in the Delaware Valley Chapter and much of it done nationally with many major chain directors and independent store operators uniting to bring our voices to both the entertainment industry as well as to the halls of government.

Our work made it possible for you to enjoy films and recorded product as you desired, both then and now.

You are very welcome.

I was elected to the National Board in 2001 and served three years until the iDEA was formed and split off from the mothership VSDA. Until the time of my layoff in 2009, I was on the iDEA National Board.

I had the honor of being parts of panels, presentations, seminars, interactive sessions, negotiations and development of both industry efforts to grow and improve as well as industry challenges to our livelihood. Many of the panels had major players from across the entertainment spectrum. My first panel, on the subject of music video, included RUSS SOLOMON, who founded TOWER RECORDS. Many of the people who called to sell us videos (VHS, Beta, LaserDisc and CED Disc) ascended to the top rungs of Sony, Warner, Disney, Fox, and Paramount, plus a ton of great independent film companies.

I have plenty of other stories and successes (and a few failures), but in essence…

I had clout with a “c”. That clout was a two way street. It allowed me the opportunity to have an impact on a growing industry. It allowed me to meet and influence people who needed my (and our) influence.

And it helped me learn a hell of a lot about this business.

It also allowed me to use and hone my skills and knowledge everyday, to both help my employer and to help my employers industry choice. I loved this business 24/7.

.

Members of the First Board of iDEA (and since that time, with the help of gastric bypass, I've lost over 140 lbs

All of that changed on 9/17/2009. That was the day that I was laid off from my job, an industry I had served for 27 years. The “brick and mortar” video industry was under attack from new forces and my company did not have the desire to continue the battle. As they downsized the stores division, they decided they no longer needed a “general manager” for them. I begged to differ because I felt the stores needed to be transformed uniquely, not just tweaked.

Company employee of the year 2007. Laid off 2009. Go figure.

That caused the clout to transform into a desire. The desire to leverage information and contacts into another rewarding position in the retail industry. Unfortunately, I was not alone. A number of great people who worked in the home video industry got kicked to the curb as well, and the openings grew scarcer.

Then came the lung biopsy.

That “rocked my world” to use a cliché. Being told that your left lung is at least 50% damaged beyond repair and that your constant companion when you are active is now a shoulder bag full of portable oxygen is not exactly Publishers Clearing House time. It affects you both physically and mentally, but abstractly, it also affects you socially. When you work, you have the social aspect of those working around you, of the salesmen and women, of the customers, of those you meet throughout the day.

And that social aspect is directly related to your clout. Without someone to interact with, “clout” is a five letter word. That became one of my many new fears: lifespan, day to day health, income, care, social and creative activity, and that thing called clout. I don’t believe it is egotistical to want to have an impact on an area of interest and importance to yourself. It is human nature. It is clout.

My "signature" for Dunder Mifflin Allentown

Then came Facebook and Twitter. There were other online activities that I stuck my toes in, such as running a virtual “branch office” of Dunder Mifflin, the paper company from NBC’s The Office. This was a yearlong online activity that revolved around each weeks episodes. We were the ALLENTOWN BRANCH and we lasted three years. The social aspect allowed me to meet a ton of new people from across the country, many of who remain great friends to this day.


That social clout is what I desire along with some form of clout like I used to possess in my old job. Let’s face it. If you don’t desire to have some sort of impact, you are wasting no one’s time but your own.

As I move forward with pulmonary rehab, maintenance, and education, and learn more about what I have (It is classified as an ILD Interstitial Lung Disease, or more specifically as NSIP Non-Specific Interstitial Pneumonitis), I also desire to move ahead mentally, socially and creatively. While I am not sure what work I can do in the future (or even if I can ever work again) , I can use my computer (badly sometimes). So that becomes my portal to new clout.

Or maybe it is “KLOUT”.

Over the summer, I was part of an online effort to promote the new TNT series FALLING SKIES. I was one of 600 chosen because of what my online conversations seemed to show as to my ability to talk entertainment, science fiction, and television. Or to just talk. This effort was organized through KLOUT, which is like a social media scoring service that attempts to find people who actively show a connection to a particular topic. We would receive weekly mailings of fun little items that related to the show plus one Tweeter (Hokuboku) won a trip to the set and a walk-on role for Season Two.

If you look back through my blog over the Summer of 2011, you’ll find my many blog posts on FALLING SKIES.

Falling Skies

This KLOUT (www.klout.com) program allowed me to meet another great group of people to fill that social void that exists over the last two years, as well as allowed me to bring some of my skill sets of promotion and creativity back into play. Damn, it felt really good.

Through things like KLOUT, I am trying to mentally and socially get back to the learning and learned experience that I have enjoyed for over three decades, even if I won’t achieve the physical abilities that I used to have. That makes me focus forward, to have hope, to have pride, to have friends. To both cope with my new limited abilities and to find ways to defy those limits.

I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. When I was working, the ultimate goal was successfully reaching retirement age. Now it is simply reaching tomorrow with a strong enough will and desire to reach the day AFTER tomorrow and so on, God willing. However, without a social base to share what I know and love, my clout is all “out”.

I invite you to try KLOUT and see how you measure up, but also see how I can help you and you can help me and we can help others. Ask me if you need more convincing. Find me there under @adimike55.

While I hope that my real world “clout” can find a way to enhance my new life “KLOUT”, I also hope that my KLOUT is able to provide something that you can use, not just a mailing containing SKITTER FINGERS.

The fingers of a alien skitter

PREVIOUS PULMONARY POSTS:

Pulmonary Rehab 9/1/11: Earthquakes, Hurricanes, And Steps To Climb

Pulmonary Rehab 8/19/11: When We Last Left Our Hero…

Pulmonary Rehab 8/17/11: Adrian Is Doing Well. Give Him A Sticker.

Birthday Wishes And Pulmonary Dreams 8/11/11

Pulmonary Rehab Tales 8/10/11

Pulmonary Rehab 101: 1 Of the Future

Tomorrow Starts The Next Phase: Pulmonary Rehab And Education

Expecting Expectation, Getting Ramblings

Those Three Words

Shirking at THE OFFICE. Not being OUTSOURCED.

For three years now, going onto four, I have had a virtual job (no pay, worse hours, great friends) working at a virtual branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. You are probably familiar with their Scranton sales office.

The site changes with the show themes, so this year, you will find myself and my co-workers at http://www.dundermifflin.sabre-corp.com . Look for the Allentown branch. We will be sleeping under our desks there.

I mention this because, until I overdiscovered Facebook and Twitter in the last year, the DunderMifflin site was the extent of my social experience on the web. I’ll post more about it later, as the revised site rolls out.

However, I am a huge fan of THE OFFICE for the usual reasons (funny, outrageous, at times touching) and the not-so-usual reasons, that there is a bit of truth under all the nonsense. No matter how ludicrous the character, you can always look inward or to a co-worker (if I had them anymore) and spot some trait that you share, good or bad. That makes it real, to a degree, and even a learning tool for your job performance.

So if course, I welcomed the return of the show, and it didn’t disappoint. Scranton is feeling the uncertainty of a new corporate owner, the story stayed in the office itself, which is the beauty of this show. While it will use outside settings at times, whole episodes can be contained in that office park and still be amazing and funny.

Jim and Pam may be heading for a little dust-up over how each approach practical jokes.  Dwight bought himself some power by buying the office complex. (I had a set of keys on one of those belt cords like Dwight’s. Plenty of keys with no identifiable purpose. I stopped when a kid came up to me, pulled down on the keys, snapped them back and they hit me square in the balls).

Ryan still is oblivious to real work and is always scheming. Scranton now has two HR execs, Toby and Gabe, and both form a barrier to Michael, who has been forced to fire his punk nephew, handling it Michael-style: by spanking him in front of everyone. Kelly did her exec training, but no clue as to what it has done for her. Everybody is hard at work.

The best was the cold open, started by Andy, of a LIP DUB, essentially a music video to a great garage-rock classic NOBODY BUT ME by THE HUMAN BEINZ. Shot in one take, it was a blast, and my favorite scenes were Gabe’s Charleston and Creed’s interrupted guitar solo.

The episode had the duty of trying to hint at or set up the storylines for the year, so it crammed a lot of items into a half-hour, possibly too many for some. I expect these to play out and resolve over the next few episodes.

This is an office, albeit an exaggerated one. Everyone working person can identify with someone there, some activity there.

That is why the follow-up from NBC, OUTSOURCED, didn’t work for me. Forget that the first episode obviously has to introduce a large number of characters, or that it resembles THE OFFICE in style, or that someone will bitch POLITICAL CORRECTNESS in the characters (That was not a problem for me).

The best joke, and maybe only I saw it, was that the boss drank PC Cola, (Politically Correct?).

However, talk about the wrong subject to joke about at the wrong time. OUTSOURCED begins with a scene of a once busy office that is now vacant because everyone was laid off and their jobs sent to India. As someone who has been looking for work for over a year after 27 years in the same business, along with millions of others looking for work, this really cannot be funny. This is just a reminder of tragic issues and is uncomfortable, at the very least.

Add in that outsourcing is soon to be the subject of a congressional bill to ban or limit it, and it becomes more distasteful. Outsourcing is done solely to cut costs for the company by allowing them to tap a much lower pay scale for call centers, production, etc.

Last night on ABC News, David Muir went back to his hometown, Syracuse NY. He visited the now shuttered SYRACUSE CHINA COMPANY, which is world renowned for quality plateware. The company is not out of business, it has moved all operations to China. That means more unemployment in Syracuse, and a product that is not made where its name implies.

That is the problem in laughing at OUTSOURCED. Forget the quality of the jokes, the easy target nature and the predictability of how the characters will triumph (Did anyone really think the quiet girl would NOT make the upsell?). The situation is not funny to millions right now. To some, it is devastating, and the fact that it mirrors the actions of so many companies today makes it more so.

I had problems watching UP IN THE AIR, a really good movie , because so many of the unemployed people hit so close to real life. OUTSOURCED doesn’t yet have that human element, and may never, at least not as I look for work, and probably after, as so many that I know look for work.

So, NBC, time to shelve OUTSOURCED as wrong place, wrong time. Trust me, the audience knows.