Mark’s Blog

Poke yourself

April 15th, 2010

Congratulations Facebook.  You rock.

According to “Hitwise”, Facebook has become the most visited website in America.  Its market share of visits was up 185 percent over the same time last year.  Just to compare, Google was up around 9 percent.

I was going to Google what that meant, but it just seemed cruel.

I believe it means that we are spending more time poking people we wouldn’t waste the time of day to chat to, then we are looking up important stuff like sports stats or interesting uses for peanut butter (which incidentally include lubricant, pet pill disguiser and paper label remover.  Really.  I Googled it).

We’ve all Googled ourselves from time to time.
Many of us using a computer.
But facebook it, Facebook is taking over the world.

As you read this, I am on Facebook.  Go ahead…go friend me…I’ll be there.  It’s where I live now.

Facebook tempts us with the egotistical promise that someone somewhere on the planet, really really wants to know every single errant thought that crosses our minds. AND they want to see photos. AND they want to know what we think about their thoughts.  AND photos.

Capitalized conjunctions aside, Facebook is the perfect place to cut and paste the creative work of others into our electronic personas, instead of actually doing something creative or original ourselves, thus saving time that we can then use to do more poking and less talking.  How am I today?  Just check out the stolen lyric from someone else’s song I have posted as my “status update”.  Apparently today I am a little Olivia Newton John  (pre-Grease).

It’s a disease.
I must comment on your new cat photo, or I will die.
Oops, hang on a sec…gotta return a poke.  Back now.  LMAO.  Freakin’ funny cats.

Like you, I joined initially to see what all the fuss was about.  In its original days, Facebookers were less concerned about security, so you could scan a strangers’ profile, check out their friends, and even their friends’ friends.  It was a voyeuristic orgy of peekage.  Not that any of us did that sort of thing of course.  Now everyone is paranoid about identity theft, and employers seeing that shot of you with the spatula and the cardboard cut-out of Martha Stewart, who I SWEAR said it was okay.

Once the lurking was curtailed, the search was on for co-workers and family members as we embarked on a wildly competitive jag to snag as many friends as possible.
In those early days, getting a Friends request was a giddying high.
Oooooh…someone wants to be my friend!!!  INSTANT ADD.
Now of course we are more discerning of the company we keep.  Do I know them?  Will they clutter my page with application drivel and invites to lame events?   Or worse, will they not be interested in my brilliant application newsfeed and my “oh so important” event?

After the friends came the games…sorry “applications”.  Now when I’m too tired to poke, I can find out what kind of dog I am, or what country song tells my story…or god help me, play Farmville (along with over 83 million other monthly users).  By the way my answers are dachshund, and Goodbye Earl.  Also, I have never been too tired to poke.  I know it happens to men my age, but knock wood…I still can.

And lets not forget the frustration of the endless program updates.  I just figure out where everything is, so I can steer the U.S.S Facebook without having to rely on Mr. Sulu, when BAM…my life is chaos again, and instead of checking my notifications, I am driving straight into the sun while Yeoman Rand looks intensely into the soft focus camera.  In it’s present incarnation, I still can’t find the damn “Sign out” tab.

It has only taken a few years for a simple social networking tool to become the world’s biggest scrapbook.  Our need to share has even pushed into the formerly sacred.  Have you seen the video of the couple that interrupted their “I do’s”, to update their Facebook status from “single” to “married?  I think I actually threw up in my mouth a little that time.

Remember first, second and third base?  (no, not baseball) It has been re-faced.
Now there’s “Face-base”: that magical part of love when you change your status from “Single” to “In a relationship”.   I assume it happens after you’ve rounded the bases a few times.
It’s sooooo cute.
In the same way it’s cute when your neighbours’ kids spraypaint “BUTT FACE” on your garage door.

FB is a giant black hole of time and effort, sucking in everything around it without mercy, while only giving back invitations to play Mafia Wars.

Fan Pages are big business now, as entertainers and retailers and people with causes can use FB to continue to shamelessly hump their agendas and doo-dads.
(I did NOT join the “I bet this onion ring can get more fans than Nickleback” fan page.  Despite the fact that I really really love onion rings.  Mostly I was just afraid that Chad Kroeger would kick my ass.)

Sadly, I am now turning into the Facebook equivalent of a cranky old man.  I hate it when my friends don’t use actual photos of themselves as their profile pics.  Since I never actually see them face to face anymore, without those photos I have no idea what they look like.  During the Olympics I assumed all my friends had become hockey sweaters or red leafs.

Also, I am protective of my Wall.  Lame status updates, now equal instant “Hide” for you.
“I love my dog”, while accurate, is your one-way ticket to GONE-ville.
I may even un-friend you for that juicy contribution.
See, I told you…cranky.

I would moan on a little longer, but in the time it has taken me to write this, I have missed 16 crucial status updates (Trevor and Aaron are now friends), 3 pokes (which still make me giggle like a 9 year old who thinks “pianist” is dirty), and 2 page suggestions (Join if you think RUSH deserves induction into the R and R hall of fame…which I do)…so, I am hitting the “sign out” tab (which I just found, thank you very much).

Mark La Pointe is a freelance writer and voice actor for www.Killervoiceovers.ca, or at least he would be if he would stop screwing around on Facebook.

Where did the fun go…memories of fun past

November 9th, 2009

A HUGE thank you to everyone who enjoyed the blog both here and in Broadcast Dialogue mag.  The responses have been coming in from folks in the “BIZ” who had some memories to share and some sins to confess.  As promised…no names.

Where did the fun go? Some memories of fun from the past.

“Great article. When did fun disapper. And don’t even talk to me about having fun at work now. We’re a creative department–and totally devoid of practical jokes. I was the only contributor, once. I saran-wrapped a guy’s desk completely–and got in trouble from the health-and-safety people.

My story dates back to the early 90s at CHOO Country 1390 in Ajax, which was owned by Golden West Broadcasting. M was the morning guy at the time. He drove a piece-of-shit Jeep CJ which was always breaking down. I used to go out and pour black coffee under his oil pan quite frequently–making it look like his engine was leaking fluids. M was repeatedly the victim of the same joke. Most of the time, it was just enough to panic him, but it was sort of like Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown. He’s ask me if I’d done anything, I’d deny it, he’d swear at his Jeep, then go out and check, finally noting that I had indeed pulled the same joke on him.

One day though, I was summoned to a meeting, which included the VP, L. For the entire hour of the meeting I sat thinking that I didn’t need to be there-and that the meeting (like most meetings) was a complete waste of time.

Later that day, I went to the back of the building to have a smoke and noticed a piece of paper stuck under my windshield wiper. Curious, I went over to me car and read the note. All it said was one word: Gotcha. That’s when I noticed my car was sitting a little higher than normal. I looked down…and it was up on blocks. I hurriedly got my jack and one by one, started to get my car back down to earth–hoping, praying that no one would look out the back window of the radio station and see me.

I was down to the last wheel…thinking I had got away with it and thereby making M’s practical joke null and void, when I looked up to see the entire staff of the radio station–including the VP–at the back window waving at me and laughing.

They got me. Their revenge had been served. And you know what? It was great.

Where did the fun go?

C now living in the UK

##########

Hi Mark

Here’s a little prank pulled on a CD 989 (then it was CD 106.7) staffer a few year’s ago. One of our news guys always brought frozen dinners. Our midday guy would steal it and hide it. Usually it was found or given back. I don’t recall if the next event happened when both were still employed here or not. We all began to notice a smell about the office. Weeks passed and it got worse and worse. Who wasn’t bathing???? Turns out… one of those frozen dinners was never found – until weeks later! It was growing… a sort of fuzzy high school lab experiment – or a single guy’s fridge. Was it beef, turkey???? It did cause grown men to vomit. The mystery of the smell was solved. It was agreed to let this never happen again – until next time!!!!!!!

G in Ontario.

##########

Well, this was before I started working at the station back east…but I remember when “Buddy” was still is High School…Mr Cool guy, and he used to bring the “studio” to some house party…or take off for a bit by throwing an LP on…..remember those???

I remember having to leave my shift at 6….go to someone’s house (part of promotion/winners) and cook them breakfast….geez, even washed their dishes. We threw a pancake on the “record player” and did not get in trouble for it! LOL People loved it.

We had a huge promotion on April Fools Day….ok, so, people should know right off the bat….announced that a limo would be coming with big stars…they were going to shoot a film in the area (which, some had been done) and were looking for extras…they had to show up outside the studio at a certain time…half the city was there…lol

Radio just isn’t what it was like before….so serious now…maybe that is why people are turning to Sirius Radio? :)

D in Ontario

##########

I have funny stories, but not a lot of them have to do with gags.

Here, however, are a few that come to mind:

T once put a dead mouse in a ziplog baggie and thumbtacked it to the bulletin board on my desk in the newsroom.

When I came in to work the night shift, I walked over, saw it, and WENT ON A SCREAMING TOUR OF THE BUILDING.

I just started screaming and running and screaming and running and screaming and running until I ran out of voice and got tired of running. Then I came back inside the newsroom, saw it still there, and started, yes folks, ANOTHER SCREAMING TOUR OF THE BUILDING.

I think there were a total of three screaming tours, because the jokester in question didn’t take it upon himself to give the damsel in distress a break and REMOVE the offending mouse in the ziploc baggie from the bulletin board.

A classic.

I can no longer watch a Mickey Mouse cartoon or a commercial for ziploc baggies without having nightmares.

K in Ontario

##########

I was not a very credible Santa Claus but the task of impersonating him was thrust upon me when I worked at CKPC Radio in Brantford way back in the mid 50’s. One year in mid December, a hardware store was coerced into sponsoring a Christmas series, ‘A Visit to the North Pole’ Lucky me, I was chosen to play the lead; read letters from the kiddies interspersed with numerous ho-ho’s and admonitions to be good and eat their vegetables. This was accompanied by jingle bells and the sound of wind whistling around the workshop (we had a large sound effects library)

Then it was commonplace for colleagues to sneak into the studio when you were on the air live and attempt to disrupt, embarrass, humiliate or just break you up. This is not a good thing to do especially if the boss is listening. Charlie (later to ascend to CFRB in Toronto and become Charles), was the best at this and a faux Santa was a perfect target for him.

The final show was on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and as I read the youngster’s’ crayon-crafted notes in my approximation of the jolly gent, Charlie whose role was Santa’s assistant, an elf we named ‘Elfy’ (clever eh?) crept into the studio on his knees. I was distracted when he began to hammer on my mike stand with a glass ashtray. I asked Kringle-like, “Elfie, what are you doing?” The reply in a tiny elfin falsetto, “I’m fixing the runners on your sleigh Santa for your big trip.” I ho-hoed in approval and was reading the next letter when Charlie smacked the mike stand a little too aggressively and the glass ashtray shattered. Elfie’s startled reaction was loud, very clear and so very inappropriate on a live kid’s show. “Oh **** Santa, I cut my tiny hand!”

That did it, I collapsed in laughter, the guy in the control room fell from his chair, the bells jingled and the wind howled, I shut off the mike, stepped over Charlie who was curled up and giggling and like Elvis, ‘Santa’ left the building.

B in Ontario

##########

Hi Mark
Here a little prank pulled on a CD 989 (then it was CD 106.7) staffer a few year’s ago. One of our news guys always brought frozen dinners. Our midday guy would steal it and hide it. Usually it was found or given back. I don’t recall if the next event happened when both were still employed here or not. We all began to notice a smell about the office. Weeks passed and it got worse and worse. Who wasn’t bathing???? Turns out… one of those frozen dinners was never found – until weeks later! It was growing… a sort of fuzzy high school lab experiment – or a single guy’s fridge. Was it beef, turkey???? It did cause grown men to vomit. The mystery of the smell was solved. It was agreed to let this never happen again – until next time!!!!!!!

##########

Most of the “stories” that I was involved with could reasonably, in retrospect, be labeled “sadistic” and could have resulted in cardiac arrest for one party, and formal arrest for 5 of (me and) my peers.
But this one was festive, and it was arranged by one of the best practical jokers the radio industry ever turned loose….
Blackburn Vice President Bob Elsden was retiring. The staff or CFPL AM and FM and TV were all gathered in a pretty posh place downtown in London. Gifts galore were lavished on this great guy who had done so much much for all three stations. CFPL Radio GM Bill Brady hosted and emceed the event before staff, many CAB members, agency folks galore, CRTC folks, many of London’s politcos, and of course….advertisers were there, too.

After the champagne corks had been popped and the cake was cut, Bill told stories, welcomed speakers and wrapped up talking about Bob’s passion for Golf, his prolific slice and his penchant for losing his balls.

He also described Mr Elsden’s affection for a certain HUGE Roll Top desk that had caught his eye recently.
Out rolled Bob’s big retirement gift: The magnificent, imposing, roll-top-desk.
His tears already flowing, Bob jumped to his feel to embrace it, fondle it, hug it…and then finally OPEN it.

Out rolled 2500 range balls from The London Hunt and Country Club….they went everywhere on the stage, out into the crowd, over to the bar….and there was Bob….breathless, crying mighty tears of joy, struggling valiantly to catch every one, and wondering how Bill and that crazy radio staff  “Got Him”……..once again!

B in London

##########

mark,
I never actually got paid to be a radio-employee and oh yeah still have not!! If you have room for your next article:

Fun in the Radio Industry

-As an intern on a CO-OP program from my local high school for BX-93 Radio.

1) The first time I walked into the studio (Bx-93) and heard Michael Dee broadcasting, I said hello and the “RED LIGHT ” was on.

2) Taking the Country Cruiser through the Harvey’s Drive Thru and the lady at the window asked who I was? (16 years old and dreaming).

I have formed a relationship with your GM and I know he wants to have fun, maybe offer him a beer.

R in London

###########

It’s all fun and games until the boss sees it

By the time 1981 arrived, I was 24 years old and had been in radio for going on 2 years.  You’d think that, with all that judgment and perspective, I’d have known better.

As was his habit, our midday guy would make his first stop of the day in my production studio.  Being blessed with a fairly spacious arrangement, I took no issue with him leaving his jacket there for the day.  Mikey (perhaps an assumed name) was one of the ‘veterans’ at the station at that time.  He would have had 5 or 6 years on the air by then.  He was good at what he did, lived in a nice apartment with his wife and drove a 1970 something Datsun B210.  He also had a delightfully twisted sense of humour, which was why we thought he’d see the humour in our little prank.

We?  A prank like this needed the best that at least two minds and sets of legs could have put together.  I’m not sure that my co-conspirator has ever publically copped to being involved in this stunt, so allow me to change his name to, say, “Ron”, just in case he’s afraid of retribution 30 years later.  Ron may or may not have been our station engineer.  He had the run of the place and access any time of day or night.

I’m not sure if April Fools day was looming, but that seems like as good a reason as any to have prompted us to concoct a prank.

I won’t take any more than exactly half of the credit or responsibility for what led Ron and I to meet at the station a few days later, in the middle of the night.  In his pocket, Ron had copies of the Datsun car keys he’d made from the keys left in Mikey’s jacket, as we drove together to the apartment complex.

I briefly considered a future as a car thief as I started the car with the key copies, thinking just how easy it was and followed Ron back to the station.

We didn’t have the keen sense of advanced prankmanship that would have made us think to measure the doorway, to be certain that a B210 actually would fit in the opening that led from the main street into the lobby of the building.  But, apparently, the gods have a sense of humour, too!

Taking a run at the curb, sidewalk and a couple of wide, shallow stairs, the car bounced and groaned as it cleared the door jamb with inches to spare.  (It’s tough to accurately pilot a ton of metal through a narrow aperture when you’re laughing so hard you can hardly see!)

I think, ultimately, the biggest mistake we made was to tape a couple of signs to the top of the car in the lobby of the building proclaiming, “You can win this car in the CXXX Raffle!”

The morning guy waited until a reasonable hour before Mikey was called and asked if he knew where his car was.  When Mikey returned to the phone from looking out his window, he launched into a tirade that would have made a sailor blush, accusing the morning guy of being a part of the prank.  (Had he been given an opportunity, I’m sure he happily would have).

As staff arrived, it was the talk of the station and even after Mikey’s cab arrived, he was heard to say that he thought it was funny.  The General Manager, however, didn’t share in the mirth.  He ordered Mikey to remove it, asked who had done it, and then said if he found out, the perpetrator(s) would be fired.  We had no way of knowing that there was an ongoing squabble between the building management and our station, which rented a floor of the building.

In an unwitting act of self preservation, I waited until late that afternoon to confess my involvement to the GM.  By then, he had seen some humour in it.  I still had nearly another year of employment there before I moved on.  And really, no one was hurt, although I’m not sure they ever got all the Datsun’s oil drippings off the floor of the lobby.

New Blog in Broadcast Dialogue Magazine “Let the Fun Begin”

November 2nd, 2009

Remember when we used to have it.  You know, before downsizing and recession mongering.
Way before political correctness and pepper sprayings.
And before carpel tunnel had set in to both our wrists and our brains.
I don’t mean the fun we had on the air, I mean the fun we had with each other.

The REAL fun.

The stuff of legend.

I sat in a “state of the union” sort of meeting the other day, and my op manager asked that question.  And besides all the other stuff he filled us in on…it was that little question that stuck with me the most.  That, and the fact that the sales department had scored all the good muffins first.
Sadly the room was full of blank stares and fearful sideways glances.  Nervous eyes bounced like crazed windshield wipers, desperate to catch a hint of what the right answer might be.  No one wanted to be the odd man out.  It was obvious that they didn’t remember the fun, or maybe the meeting coffee and muffin were just kicking in.
(see “revenge of the bran hoarders”)

All he asked was, “Remember when radio used to be fun?”

I in turn asked the question to my brain.  The few synapses I have left sizzled a bit…and then the memories came, followed by a more obvious question.

“Why am I not in jail?”

But we’ll get back to that.

Many of us have been so busy worrying about the economy, our futures, the ridiculous amount of multi-tasking we do, the changing technology, and Paula Abdul’s next career move…that we have forgotten the spirit of our what we do.
Well…not forgotten…just not really thought of in a while.
We have set aside our very essence. (And by “essence”, I don’t mean that big bottle of Brut, that one of our ex news guys used to gargle with.)

Fun. Dammit. Silly.  Immature.  Goofy.  A thousand paper balls waiting in the overhead cupboard stuff.

One of my first radio gigs (while still in college), was to stand ass deep in snow at the base of a looming AM tower at 3am, and scrape micro-waved raccoon bits from the inside of the tower shack with a spatula.

That has nothing to do with the fun thing, I just wanted to get that off my chest.

If you’ve been in the radio biz for at least fifteen years…you remember some fun.  Twenty years…THE fun.
Twenty-five or more years…you are no longer capable of remembering the fun you had…that’s how much fun you had.

Remember the time you wore the cow suit to the BMG after-awards party and got milked…or the time you assembled a fifty foot long-twenty foot high plywood radio dial on your GM’s front lawn at two in the morning…or when you went through the entire station and covered every single photo on every single desk with a shot of your own face?

I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE WHO PULLS THIS CRAP!

The Moffat guys were the kings.  They would use helicopters, chainsaws, tv cameras rigged with high-powered hoses.  They would move people’s houses while they were away on vacation.
They weren’t pranksters…they were artists.  Gods.  And there were so many more…in CHUM, STANDARD, BLACKBURN…

THEY KNEW FUN.

Before you start…I know times are different…blahblahblah.

But fun isn’t.

I would love to see two things happen.

1.    I want to hear from you with your legendary prank story.  Maybe you pulled it, maybe you wore it, or maybe you just love telling the tale.  We’ll put together a bunch of the best (anonymously if necessary) and print them asap.  No need to start your story with “I was drunk when…”, as that will just be assumed.
2.    Have some freakin’ fun again.  Teach those young serious professionals what all this noise and heart and soul is really about.  Don’t get fired, don’t destroy anything, don’t hurt anyone…and most important…don’t get caught, but for God’s sake…go have some fun.  Please be careful not to harm any animals or engineers in the making of your fun.  (you can rent the cow suit from me)
3.    I know I said “two things”, but I’m on a roll here.  Lastly, I would like to see more muffins at our next meeting, because I swear each sales person took two.

Let the fun begin…again.

Send your fun to mark@killervoiceovers.ca

Voice Over Fun

July 30th, 2009

So. There you are. Alone in a small room. In front of you, a glass wall separates you from the people next door. They are watching and listening and pointing. They have snacks. Despite the glass, about ever thirty seconds or so, you hear one of their voices thunder into your ears with criticism. Most of it is nonsense…gibberish. But you HAVE to listen and obey. This is not a nightmare. This is not a Stephen King movie. This is a voice over session. Well…it could also be a nightmare, I suppose.

There is nothing more unnatural than having a piece of paper full of words and clichés and bracketed terms thrust in your face, a set of dirty duct taped headphones from 1972 strapped to your noggin, while a handful of complete strangers give you the stink eye. Oh…and try to sound natural. Read More »