Archive for the ‘Work’ Category
A few weeks ago I had the good fortune of taking part in a press trip to the Philippines islands on a Reef Check expedition, sponsored by Malibu. That’s right, a liquor company sponsored a tropical diving trip for a bunch of pampered writers. Jealous yet?
Reef Check, a non-profit dedicated to preserving coral reefs worldwide, recognizes that coral reefs are the canary in the coal mine of oceanic health, and there is a clearly defined synergistic impact between the health of our oceans and the rest of the world. They’re drawing attention to the cause by getting in the water and playing a key part in the preservation rather than throwing the typical stale, hard-sell fundraisers that are the standard for most charitable causes. After all, while the reefs are struggling terribly, they aren’t exactly the most cuddly charity one can imagine; you can’t quite hug a sea urchin, and Steve Irwin pretty much ruined any chance of the sting ray plush-toy craze catching on. So that hurdle raised the question: what would be an ideal company to partner up with in bringing attention to protecting the reefs? In hindsight, it seems like a no-brainer: Malibu Rum.
The Malibu/Reef Check partnership led us to the Philippines, long considered the “center of the center” of global marine biodiversity and an aquatic utopia for divers. After a hearty beachside breakfast each morning, we trained in standard EcoDiver monitoring protocol with Dr. Gregor Hodgson (Founder/Executive Director of Reef Check and all-around incredible human being) before heading out on our own to explore the gorgeous reefs of Puerto Galera, an island about three hours south of Manila.
As the uninitiated floundered, puked and otherwise struggled to get used to the scuba/snorkel gear (who, me?), the rest of us were immediately rewarded for our seemingly-endless travel by some of the most marvelous underwater views imaginable.
Experiencing the ultra-high diversity among the Philippines reefs was literally breathtaking – I know this personally, having had the great pleasure of gasping at a sweetlip fish swimming nearby and sucking half a pint of seawater into my lungs.
While some took oxcart trips through the hillsides and others enjoyed beachside massages to pass the free time, everyone found their own little slice of paradise diving among the reefs, and developed at least a passing understanding of the delicate environmental balance that so many species rely upon. Seeing the cost of human impact up close was both troubling and inspiring.
Don’t ask how many cases of Malibu we went through (the company was kind enough to plan ahead) or how the majority of our group inadvertently found themselves dancing in a whorehouse one night (it doubles as a bar, apparently), but I will tell you that at some point in the sweltering madness I won a cocktail competition for a concoction that consisted almost entirely of the sponsor’s product. Can’t go wrong there, I guess. And Jesus look at the food…
Giant prawns. Magically delicious.
Needless to say, the experience was a fantastic thrill – but it served as a disquieting eye-opener as well: Twenty-five percent of the entire world’s species can be found on barrier reefs, and recent findings have suggested that there is great medicinal potential among the species found therein. Unfortunately, many of the most common species found 30 years ago have already become endangered or extinct due to overfishing, global warming, poor waste regulations and environmental standards. There is a very real danger facing these tropical coastlines as a result: Barrier reefs bear the name because they protect the shoreline from big waves. As the reefs break down, the tides move in further and hammer the beach, eroding the shoreline and driving civilization inland.
Do what I did – for free!
Until August 31, you can win a trip to do the same thing I did. The Malibu/Reef Check partnership have launched the ultimate beach internship, where 10 winners will have a chance to monitor coral reef health in the utterly stunning reefs of Thailand, the Maldives, or the Philippines. Airfare, room and board are included, and while you’re getting SCUBA certified in paradise you can revel in the knowledge that you’re helping save the world.
Malibu is utilizing this perfect matchup with Reef Check to reach out to their young, eco-aware fans and offering them a chance to become a Malibu Beach Intern. To celebrate the partnership and contest, they’ve unveiled a limited-edition Malibu bottle:
“The Malibu Beach Internship provides a perfect opportunity to make saving the world just another day at the beach,” says Lisa McCann, Senior Brand Manager for Malibu (and master snorkeler). “We know that beaches and reefs are inextricably linked, so the partnership with Reef Check was a natural fit; the organization truly embodies the ideal of engaging the world in a fun and positive way while making a concerted difference.”
“What we love about the Malibu/Reef Check Partnership is that it is very real – with on-the-ground training in reef monitoring – the core of the Reef Check program,” said Dr. Hodgson. “With Malibu’s help we can reach out to so many thousands of young people and engage them in marine conservation.”
If you don’t win, however, there’s still plenty you can do to get involved. On a minimal level, you can simply avoid buying exotic sea shells, exotic ocean fish, or food from places that use blast fishing (which is exactly what it sounds like – fishing with dynamite). You can also join five former presidents by electronically signing Reef Check’s Declaration of Reef Rights.
If you’re feeling a little more generous, you can check out the Reef Check website, donate $10 to support the group’s conservation programs and sign up for their online newsletter.
If you want to do it on your own, you can sign up for Reef Check Training on your next beach vacation.
Laugh all you want, but like it or not, Twitter is taking over the world. Need some proof? Here’s a compilation of Twitter references in the past week, put together by the folks over at “The Soup” on the E! network.
The micro-blogging service had already roared past 14 million users by the end of March, and with Oprah having joined about a week ago, there’s no point holding out any longer. Resistance is futile. We may as well join up, pool our funds, send it to Oprah in one big chunk and hope she comes up with some genius way to clear up this swine flu mess. We can follow her updates in real-time.
Of course, you can follow Joel McHale at http://twitter.com/joelmchale. You can find Oprah yourself. I want no part of that action.
Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past few months, you’re well aware by now that Twitter is taking over the internet universe at blinding speeds, 140 characters at a time. Having singlehandedly put the term “microblogging” on the map, at only 3 years old Twitter is on the rise in a meteoric way. Soaring past 14 million users, the service grew 131 percent during the month of March alone, and shows no sign of slowing. Oprah just joined on Friday, and the event was covered like the Olympic opening ceremonies. Her draw alone could very well double their numbers.
But what the almighty hell is this thing? An online bird-watching club? Obviously, no. It’s the perfect place to send quick little snippets of information about what you’re doing, what interests you or what’s got your attention at any given time. It’s hyper-networking in ways that make Facebook and MySpace look agonizingly slow and segmented by comparison. Consider it Instant Messaging with the world, with the ability to tap in to the collective consciousness of millions and millions of people around the world in real time, without agenda, without censorship, without a filter or middleman.
In other words, it’s the future of the internet, and if you’re not on board, you damn well better get there.
After you study up on how to use Twitter, you’ll need to think about what you’ll say. Presentation is everything in Twitterland. In the meantime, here’s just a couple terms you need to familiarize yourself with right off the bat:
Tweet(s) – This is what you do on Twitter. Your 140 character bursts of unfathomable awesome are called “tweets,” and while it’s not a term you want to be throwing around at the gym, you damn well better get used to it. If it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for you.
The “@” sign - This little symbol is your conversational keymaster. Put this in front of the twitter name of the person you are trying to send a tweet to. If you click the little reply button next to a tweet, you don’t have to type the symbol. Whenever a person’s name is preceded by a @ symbol, that means that the sentence (tweet) that follows is directed at them.
The “#” sign – This is called a hashtag. Hashtags were designed to serve the real-time news community, a community-driven feature that enables you to submit your conversation to a broader scope of viewers, like tag clouds on blogs and Flickr. Create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol. For instance: when discussing the mind-shattering beauty of singing sensation Susan Boyle, you may want to add #TVStars or #Horseface to the end of your tweet.
Following – When you click the little “follow” button under someone’s name on Twitter, you’re essentially subscribing to that person’s Twitter feed. Their tweets will appear on your page, along with those of all the others that you follow.
#followfriday – This weekly tradition is an everybody-wins love-fest where people recommend various people they’re following, followed by the #followfriday hashtag. It’s a great way to gain new followers and show some love to your existing twitter followers.
Direct Message (DM) - Direct Messages work the same way messages do in Facebook or MySpace – it’s basically email in 140 characters, and your DM space is like a Twitter inbox. Only you can see them – DMs are completely private. You can’t DM someone unless they’re following you, so don’t get any big ideas about finally getting some one-on-one time with Kevin Smith.
Twitter Search – Just like it sounds. A perfect way to track down like-minded people on Twitter. For the millions that play along, tweeters and topics a’plenty can be found in whatever area that interests you. Want to find people with the same lunatic political beliefs as you? Just head to the search page, type in your poli-poison of choice and see what comes up. You’d be amazed at the amount of people out there who are just as crazy as you.
WeFollow.com -WeFollow is a fantastic service that enables you to place yourself in three separate Twitter group categories, where like-minded people can find and follow you – and vice-versa. For instance, if you’re an MMA fighter with a love for anime and an encyclopedic knowledge of every player in the WNBA, you’d hit up WeFollow, click “add yourself” (upper right corner), plug in your login info and add yourself under Anime, MMA and WNBA. From that point on, when people do a search for any of those terms, your account will come up on the list. That tells the person that you’re into the same bizarre stuff that they are, and they’ll be more inclined to follow you.
Tinyurl.com – 140 characters may seem like a lot at first, but try adding a link, and you’ll quickly find yourself in the negatives. URL-shortening sites like TinyUrl and Tinycc come in extremely handy when you’re recommending links and still have something to say about it (which you should – never drop blind links). Just hit the site, paste the long domain and the site will convert it into a 25-characters-or-less shortened link. A godsend.
Retweet (RT) - Last but certainly not least, RT’ing is the key to networking and broader appeal. The Twitter network relies upon people sharing info and wisdom with one another openly. The recent Amazon “glitch” fiasco caught real fire on Twitter before standard media even took notice. By the time most news feeds had picked up the story, most people in Twitterland already knew the score.
If someone tweets something that interests you and you feel it would interest your followers, you retweet it for your readers. It essentially quotes that person’s tweet and gives them the credit, so people can see the tweet and follow that person if the info is blindingly amazing.
Think of it as forwarding an email to everyone in your network – except these forwards won’t usually tend to get you blacklisted from someone’s contact list (unlike that time you RickRoll’d everybody at work with an email titled “mass companywide layoffs”). You might have only 20 followers, which means that only 20 people are exposed to the blazing nuggets of impeccable wisdom you impart. But if one of your followers has 5,000 followers him/herself, and RT’s your tweet, you’ve suddenly got 5,000 new sets of eyes on what you’re saying.
How to RT – Copy the text of the tweet you like, making sure to pay attention to the user that you are copying from. Then scroll up to your text entry box at the top, and begin your tweet with “RT @username: ” then paste your copied text. Submit and you’re done! It’s really pretty simple. The best part? You can delete your tweet and try again if you screw up (the little trashcan next to your tweets).
Alright – so now you’ve got the basics. It’s time to get Tweetin’. Make sure you check out our Twitter Do’s & Don’ts if you’re new to the system, so you’re not left tweeting into the void, nobody listening, nobody caring…
This is a fantastic time for fans of the Marvel Universe, with the smash success of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine flick, as well as the barrage of superhero films on the horizon in the great Avengers web. The ball needs to keep rolling, however, and it seems like Marvel could use a hand in picking out a few ideas for the next batch of superhero films.
With that said, here’s Five X-Men: Origins Films They Should Make Next!
First Appearance: X-Factor Vol. 1 #5
Powers: Teleportation, psionic powers, superhuman speed, strength & agility, flight and… oh yeah. He’s immortal.
Apocalypse is an ancient mutant (3000 B.C. qualifies as ancient, right?) megalomaniac, obsessed with putting the Social Darwinist philosophy of survival of the fittest into brutal, dominating action. Age of Apocalypse is a storyline that orginated in 1995, centering on an alternate, futuristic timeline in which Apocalypse has shown himself to be the “fittest” by conquering pretty much the entire world. Anyone up for arguing against that being a hell of an awesome movie concept? Didn’t think so.
Why this movie would kick ass: Aside from his massive popularity and the obviously amazing special effects this film would have to deliver to even have hope of doing the story justice, Apocalypse is regarded as the very first mutant, and that’s a story worth telling.
First Appearance: Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain Issue #248
Powers: He’s one evil, brilliant bastard.
Due to the unique nature of his deathtraps and tactics, Arcade has become one of the most popular villains in the Marvel Comics universe. A master hitman and twisted genius with several possible histories (he enjoys misleading others on that bit), Arcade enjoys the act of killing so much that he built his own underground funhouse of complex, hi-tech deathtraps, usually decked out in bright colors and disguised as an amusement park – a place he fittingly calls Murderworld.
Usually a guest villain spanning only a few issues, this deceptively comical character has fought more superheroes from more franchises than any other Marvel comics villain, except for maybe Dr. Doom. A regular nuisance to the X-Men, Arcade has attempted to kill the likes of Gambit, Colossus, Wolverine, Angel, Iceman, Shadowcat, Angel, Iron-Man… you get the idea. He’s a pretty engaging guy.
Why this movie would kick ass: Marvel could put a seriously dark spin on this one, taking it away from the umbrella of the comic genre entirely. Think The Joker meets Saw. The moviegoing public seems to enjoy twisted torture flicks, and Arcade fits that bill to a “T”.
First Appearance: X-Men #1
Powers: High-intensity optic blast
The X-Men films have generally given Scott Summers a bad rap, casting him as the whiny, cuckolded husband to Wolverine’s show-stealing Cassanova act. He’s a far more interesting player in the greater scheme of the Marvel Universe, however, and deserves a closer look.
The leader of the X-Men and father of X-Force leader Cable is a much more troubled and complex figure than the films have indicated thus far, with a family history and storyline that rivals any in Marvel’s vast realm. He’s been reunited with his space-pirate father, fought beside both a son and daughter from alternate futures, been made a widower twice over and found two lost brothers in the process.
Why this movie would kick ass: Cyclops is a fan favorite, and focusing on his dramatic familial background would be a definite pull for female viewers, as well as comic junkies who want to see the deeper cuts on film.
First Appearance: X-Men #4
Powers: Moving and thinking at super-speeds, looking like a badass
My original idea was to go with Magneto, but since they’re actually making a Magneto film (and it was a fairly obvious choice anyway), the next logical step would be his son, Pietro Frank. A Stan Lee creation, Quicksilver is an epic example of the classic villain-goes-good story. Both Pietro and his sister Wanda were members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. A righteous bastard top to bottom, he’s an impulsive, arrogant showoff – but that’s not to say he’s without morals. Understanding the flaws in his father’s world view, Pietro joined X-Factor for a time, and despite his inability to completely mesh with the X-Men, he’s a much more fascinating character than the Flash, who shares similar powers and has thus far gotten greater mainstream exposure.
Why this movie would kick ass: Imagine the inner conflict of a kid growing up with Magneto for a father! The arrogance and dark origins mixed with his innate drive to use his powers for good could make this a compelling and entertaining story.
First Appearance (as Cable): New Mutants #87
Powers: Telekinesis, telepathy, anatomical enhancements
A telepath/telekinetic from birth and raised in an alternate future dominated by Apocalypse, Cable is the son of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Madelyne Prior (a clone of Jean Grey). Initially billed as a mysterious thug mercenary with a glowing eye, the one-time X-Force leader was revealed to have powers far beyond what was assumed.
A prime example of he demonstrated the ability to simultaneously levitate the floating city of Providence and combat the Silver Surfer. His bionic body parts possess enhanced strength and durability, as well as the ability to interface with machinery – using his powers to hack into computers, open electronic locks, and even time travel.
Why this movie would kick ass: Because I barely scratched the Cable storyline with that description, and every layer that peels away from Cable is more fascinating than the last.
A last-minute editorial piece for Crave came through on Thursday, and I had to appear at least halfway knowledgeable about Alfred Hitchcock and his many, many films. Apparently I pulled it off: we hit the front page of Digg – my first time.
Here’s the piece: Five Classic Alfred Hitchcock Films.
Late Night” host Conan O’Brien is about head West to replace Jay Leno as host of NBC’s “Tonight” show in June, and he’s making the most of his final week at the studios in New York, running through montage after montage of best-of clips from the show.
To celebrate 16 years of late-night laughs, I put together my very own Best Of Conan collection, which was posted at CraveOnline. Enjoy (and excuse the weird spacing around the clips – working on it).
10. Conan O’Brien Hates My Homeland
“Late Night” received many angry letters from viewers in Ukraine after a bit aired mocking that nation. In New Euros, the joke was an image on a Ukrainian Euro Coin depicting a man in Eastern European dress with four arms, waving, with the caption on the coin saying “Over 17 years since the Chernobyl Accident”. O’Brien had no previous idea that his show even aired in the Ukraine, and as a result set out on a mission to dole out rapid-fire insults of every country on Earth in alphabetical order, to determine where else the show is being aired without his knowledge. Announcer Joel Godard then proceeded to tell insulted viewers around the world a real address to send their angry letters.
It’s worth noting that an announcer on Finnish entertainment channel SubTV asked people to defend Finland before Conan got around to insulting it, and mail from Finland began pouring in before the bit had even gotten to the letter F. Conan responded by assuming the Finnish “just couldn’t wait” to be insulted and skipped ahead in the segment to attack Finland. After a spectacle involving a formal apology and transferring his fake hatred over to Sweden, Conan realized that he bears a resemblance to two-term president Tarja Halonen, which eventually led to a short visit to the country in mid-February 2006.
The sketch continued, but on August 9, 2007, Zimbabwe was the last country to be featured, ending the bit after three years.
9. Will Ferrell Gives Conan A Birthday Leprechaun Dance
Conan always tends to bring out the more colorful character in his guests, but when the guest starts out as a colorful character, where do you go from there? Into the absurd, of course. This litle birthday dance was just as memorable as it was nauseating, if only for the fact that Conan and Ferrell work so well together.
8. Conan Interviews Hunter Thompson
I don’t know how the hell this managed to stay beneath my radar for all these years, but it’s an utterly classic moment in television. Conan interviewing Hunter Thompson is one thing; Conan and Hunter pounding whiskey at Owl Farm and shooting fully automatic assault rifles is another beast altogether. Pay attention around the 2:50 mark, when shit gets truly weird. And notice how Conan doesn’t get a single question in the entire “interview.”
“One of the strangest guests I’ve probably had on the show was the legendary author and creator of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson,” O’Brien said as an introduction to a re-airing of the now-legendary interview. “Hunter Thompson cultivated a reputation not only for his erratic behavior but for producing some of the best writing of the last century, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Noting that the good doctor refused to come to the studio for an interview, O’Brien explained the author agreed to shoot a remote segment “and I met him on a farm in upstate New York to shoot guns and drink hard liquor.” Adding, “He probably expected me to say that’s not going to happen … we brought a camera crew, and here’s what happened.”
7. Celebrity Secrets
This popular bit features celebrities in a jail cell, smoking a cigarette and pounding hard liquor, spilling some ridiculously false “secret” that was previously unknown about them. One featured Gwyneth Paltrow admitting that anytime before she starts a new film she kills a hobo with a hammer, as well as a love for porn. The very best one features Snoop Dogg, and we couldn’t find the clip (let us know if you do), but it went something like this:
“Before I was called ‘Snoop Dogg’ I was called ‘Snoop Doggy Dogg.’ Before that I was called ‘Snoop Diggity Doggity Dogg.’ Before that, I was just called, ‘The Phantom.’”
“Last Christmas I put on a Santa Claus mask, and I said to three of my ladies, ‘ho, ho, ho.’ They didn’t think it was funny.”
“It’s true, Dr. Dre is not a real doctor. I just wish he had told me that before I let him remove my pancreas.”
“When I go to restaurants, the waiters always ask me if I want a doggy bag. I’m tired of that. All you waiters, stop asking me if I want a motherf***n’ doggy bag.”
6. Fake Celebrity Interviews
Bill Clinton was enormously popular in this skit, which was based on the old “Clutch Cargo” cartoon technique of using real human lips on fake cartoon heads. The bit relies heavily on the low-budget filming method Syncro-Vox, with a lowered TV screen in place of where the guest would actually sit. A still image of a celebrity is featured on-screen, with a live video feed of the mouth of the backstage impersonator (usually either Robert Smigel or Brian Stack). The impersonations range from George W. Bush to Barbara Bush (who’s appropriately given a gruff, manly voice), Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Martha Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jackson, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and so on.
Here’s a recent clip featuring A-Rod:
5. Conan Works For UPS
Big Red suits up in the standard brown uniform and goes through a hilarious crash-course in training that includes a Patton-like speech to his co-workers, a disastrous driving instruction and an invasive home delivery.
4. In the Year 2000
This bit is typically performed after a celebrity guest has been introduced and finds O’Brien, band member Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg and the selected guest wearing black robes, futuristic-looking collars and a lit flashlight held under their face. Between La Bamba’s high falsetto wails of “In the year 2000…”, O’Brien and the guest alternate delivering jokes, often based on current events, in the form of humorous predictions of what will happen in the year 2000. The sketch was obviously invented prior to the actual year 2000, but has carried on almost a decade later. The second-to-last prediction commonly involves Conan mocking his guest, while the last prediction involves the guest mocing Conan in return.
Here’s a great one with Stephen Colbert:
3. Conan vs. Stewart vs. Colbert: Who Made Huckabee?
Conan’ recurring mock feud with Comedy Central hosts Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart over who sparked the short-lived campaign success of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee rapidly became one of the greatest moments of any of the three hosts’ shows. Conan argued that the popularity of Huckabee’s biggest high-profile supporter Chuck Norris was the result of his own Walker, Texas Ranger Lever sketch, therefore “Conan made Huckabee.” Colbert, however, claimed that “Colbert made Huckabee” after giving him the “Colbert Bump” on his own show, a measurable stat in the polls. Following a series of cross-show statements, Conan, Colbert and Stewart each presented increasingly ludicrous reasons why he was the cause for Huckabee’s success – while cutting down their rivals in the process. The feud culminated in a final showdown between the three on “Late Night,” making for a hilarious battle royal.
2. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
Wednesday’s episode of “Late Night” reminded me that, despite his low-brow vulgar annoyance, Triumph brings some of the most hilarious insults ever televised when he’s on a roll, such as making fun of Star Wars maniac fanboys in line for Attack of the Clones:
Triumph’s brutal appearance at Comic Con also deserves an honorable mention, for sure:
1. The Walker Texas Ranger Lever
The summer of the Walker Texas Ranger lever on Conan was a glorious one, inspired by NBC’s purchase of entertainment company Universal in early 2004, thus creating NBC Universal. Conan put two and two together and unleashed the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever, which allowed him to play a video clip from the show any time he wanted, without paying any royalties, just by pulling the yellow-topped red lever. The comedy usually intensified by the choice of clips chosen from the Chuck Norris series; in other words, Conan had a knack for taking things out of context. Here’s a few hilarious examples: