Lights, Camera(s), Action!

As much as I really don’t want to make a certain person any richer than he already is, I ordered two tripods through Amazon. JB can thank me later. I need two because they will allow me to test which camera I will use in making videos for my YouTube channel; my cell phone or my Nikon D3500.

Fortunately each one came with illustrated instructions for assembly. Being old school I find this method of learning more efficient than watching internet videos since those online experts tend to skip over steps needed to fully understand what the heck you are doing. It’s that “intuitively obvious” syndrome YouTubers suffer from, which causes their disdain for any references to the shallows of progress.

The first tripod to arrive on my doorstep was the cheap one to hold my cell phone. It is advertised as a selfie stick attached to a three-legged base and lives up to its modest hype; another reason to be grateful. Assembly takes two steps: How to release the tripod; and How to position the phone holder. As an added benefit there is also instruction on how to properly pack it all up again.

Finally! A medium I can understand.

The one inconvenience is that the phone, for which I bought a protective cover, doesn’t completely fit in the holder. The thickness of this rubber cocoon exceeds the holder’s tolerance. Still it is snug enough for my purpose, but I may decide to risk my phone’s fragile fate in order to form a more perfect union between it and the tripod – if it will help the quality of the video.

The more expensive tripod arrived fashionably late. Due to its cost it probably traveled first class. And to my joy it came with another set of printed instructions. The added glory this makes for both tripods is that there were no missed steps in the assembly. It is a rare delight these days to get from A to Z without needing to do another internet search for a potentially fragmented explanation.

The glamour tripod is a Victiv. Its manual contains the promise that I will “Enjoy Life More” as a consequence of using this product.

Such promises enhance the chances that I will chose to use my Nikon camera to record my videos since it is mounted on this fabulous, life-giving device. To know for sure I need to put the Nikon and my cell phone to an unbiased test to determine audio/visual supremacy.

This requires a twin set up, using both cameras to record me in tandem. My bedroom is my set, my recliner my only prop, but I decline to recline as I express my management wisdom. The rest is just me and my cameras recording what I hope does not prove to be a doom loop.

I say my piece and watch the playback on each device. Unfortunately this does not allow for a valid comparison. I need to download both videos to my editing software and see how they compare on an independent screen. The problem this raises is that I now have to learn how to use the software; another week’s message and more on-line tutorials no doubt. The road to influencer fame and fortune is paved with technologically challenged good intentions.

The Setup

My path to becoming an internet influencer is fraught with danger; the inherent pitfalls of having to learn something new. My progress to-date has brought me to the threshold of creating content for a YouTube channel, which I can load with influential messages to enlighten others, even though they have no clue that they need to be enlightened by me.

My ambition requires more than a haphazard approach to content creation. I do want some quality to my work sufficient to make my mother proud. Therefore I’ve decided to do more than simply record a video selfie to post directly to my channel.

I aspire to having a few bells and whistles in my productions such as intro and outro  music, title cards, end credits and supers. To achieve all of this I’ve downloaded the open source Olive editing software as described in my last message.

My original thought was to buy a video camera to assure a high quality for my productions. My second thought was grounded in my sense of thriftiness. I have a cell phone and a Nikon camera, both of which have the prerequisite audio/visual capabilities. The prudent course of action, then, is to make use of what I already own. This is in keeping with my choice of open source editing software. Free is best.

This brings me to another “fraught with danger” moment, however; the need to test drive my camera options to determine which one provides the better quality of imagery and sound. My producer’s sensibilities mean I plan to be on camera for my presentations and since I don’t have the arm strength to hold either camera at arm’s length, I must acquire a tripod to hold a camera steady. Two tripods, actually, since I have yet to decide which camera to use. So much for thrift.

Through this entire process I have navigated the web to fulfill my aspirations. It serves me well once again as I submit my query to discover the best tripods for my consideration. Of course the internet thinks that by “best” I mean quality. My alt definition, which I live by, is cheap.

I won’t defame the manufacturer by naming the tripod chosen for my cell phone. The box it arrived in self-describes the product as being no more than a selfie stick with a three-legged, attachable base. As such it is sufficient for my needs and comes at an acceptable price.

For my Nikon camera, however, I am smitten with the thought that I have other applications for which a good quality tripod would come in handy. I buy a Victive NT72, which is more substantial than a selfie stick. It also tilts my decision making prowess towards using the Nikon to record my videos since it uses the more expensive tripod. Being human, I am susceptible to our species’ inclination towards thinking that a higher cost equates with higher quality. I ignore the fact that I am evaluating the tripod and not the camera. The cell phone on a selfie stick still has a slim chance of being chosen. What’s needed next is a comparative test drive.

Next week’s message: Lights, Camera(s), Action!

An Olive Branch

This series of web log messages is testament to an old man’s commitment to becoming an influencer in the 21st Century. Proof of age is how slow my progress is going. The pace is also my proof of ignorance as every step requires multiple reviews of on-line videos and articles to prop me up for making any decision.

Take for instance my desire to make use of video editing software so that I am able to do more than record a simple, clumsy video taken with my outdated cell phone without the ability to edit in titles and other features. My new YouTube channel has class – or at least it will have once I post something – so I am committed to being able to produce a reputable looking product.

I consult the internet.

I am looking for an open source video editing software program. All I need is something basic. I do not anticipate needing CGI capabilities since this will not be a super hero movie; just an old man talking into the camera, imparting sage advice on being a non-profit administrator in a low-budget operation.

Open source is the major selection criteria since I live on a fixed income. I must conserve my financial resources. Basic features ranks number two on my list since I am a reluctant acolyte in the video making multiverse and require simplicity. This effort being a no-brainer has an unintended meaning.

I did not anticipate the number of software options available to me when I do my search. It takes time to read the reviews, compare the pros and cons and test drive each one via the online tutorials. Surprisingly there are no young females this time, blonde or otherwise, confidently telling me what software is the best for me to use. Apparently this is a guy thing since only males dominate the tutorials.

My search ultimately culminates with a program called Olive. Part of the appeal is that it hints at the possibility of an emotional peace offering for an overwhelmed soul lost in the confusion of too many options. I gratefully click on the free download button and start the process. That’s when I find out that Olive is passive-aggressive. There’s another choice to make, which I did not see featured in its tutorial. Maybe I was dozing when it was discussed. Retired administrators like aging presidents do need naps.

I got the part in the download process where you click on the button appropriate for your computer operating system; Windows, Mac or Linux. Windows for me! What I didn’t know was coming was the choice about downloading the software as permanent or temporary.

After a few hesitant moments of internal debate I chose permanent as a way to underscore my commitment to being an influencer. The downside; the choice leaves me emotionally drained. I need a nap.

Next week: I have no idea. I’m too tired to make another decision.

Channeling My Internet Geekiness

I am acquiring a new persona, that of being a Geek, although I am hardly a black belt in the craft. Slowly, ever so slowly I am learning more about the internet by way of seeking to become an influencer by virtue of launching a YouTube channel.

My progress to-date includes establishing a Google account and a YouTube account. Next up is the actual attainment of a YouTube channel.

My niche in the YouTube universe is to advise administrators of small non-profits about the lessons I learned during my own years of impoverished commitment to charitable causes. Since I was aided and abetted in my career by others suffering the same fate, I see YouTube as my chance to do the same for those still locked in the employment bondage of blighted aspirations. I hope to offer them sound advice absent the constraints of time and space.

During my final years in active management I was a blogger. It proved to be very helpful in promoting the organization that employed me at that time, an operating railroad museum. When I was encouraged to seek early retirement, I continued blogging under the moniker of Management in Exile. And that is the name I wish to establish as my YouTube channel to honor my current status as a fellow manager.

Here is my proposed opening statement for my planned first episode entitled A Voice in the Wilderness:

“Hello and welcome to the first episode of Management in Exile. My name is Don and my use of the word exile in this channel’s title means that I am retired and live in the wilderness of the unemployed.”

This could be taken as a downer statement, I suppose. But my hope is that my affable good nature will be amply communicated in my videos in order to inform people of my self-deprecating good humor as the means to learning about otherwise dull administrative details. We’ll see. First, however, is establishing the channel as my soon to be platform of influence in the nether world.

I access YouTube and log in as before. But when I click on the create channel button the message I get is a disappointment. It tells me to come back later. I am obedient so I do.

What I find upon my return is that my channel is my account name. This does not look like the process I witnessed many times when watching those how-to videos featuring those self-confident brats, who make it all seem intuitively obvious. It’s not, but I soldier on.

There is a Branding link which takes me to a page, where I am given the option to add images for a channel banner and a watermark. I’ve come prepared for neither, so I try another link.

The Basic Info link is more encouraging. Here I can change my channel name and handle, which I do, provide a description of the channel, which I draft, and add links to my website and email address.

The option I avoid is entering my preferred pronouns. My mind wanders back to my assigned reading in my high school days. Didn’t Yossarian, the antihero of Catch 22, censor all pronouns when reading through GI mail in his efforts to undermine military morale? This option certainly undermines mine. I leave the field blank as a statement about my resentment for having to state the obvious; at least to me and my mother, if she were here.

My protest is sufficient to wear me out emotionally. I’m done for today. My internet interaction is making me numb. I have a channel. It has the desired name and handle. It’s up to me now to give it substance.

Next week: Offering myself an Olive branch.

Accounting For YouTube

I am on a path to becoming an influencer. My chosen platform, a word that has now entered my vocabulary thanks to my late in life crisis of purpose, is to create a YouTube channel.

Step one I wrote about last week. To access YouTube I had to submit to the internet authorities and create a Google account. Fait accompli, a French phrase I learned via (a Latin word) the internet. The times they are a-changin’ (Dylan).

Step two is today’s message. Now that I have a Google account I can create the desired YouTube account. I can think of no fancy foreign language phrase to accompany that attainment or an appropriate pop culture quote either. Perhaps a mild form of profanity would suffice. Mom would know.

Once again I turn to the internet as my mentor. My search for how to open a YouTube account lands me on a video featuring a confident young woman, who shepherds me step by step through the process. I dutifully watch the video several times, not because I’m slow to learn but because I enjoy confidence, especially of the blonde hair blue eyed variety. I used to have both.

The trouble with absorbing someone else’s confidence is that it comes with the unstated assertion that the process is intuitively obvious. I am willing to confess on behalf of those of us who lack the composure of blonde confidence that it’s not. So back to watching the video, or maybe another just to be assured that I am not being lured into an on-line scam because I am by nature susceptible to such things.

With fear and trepidation I access the YouTube website and dutifully follow the steps described for me for becoming a YouTube acolyte. I wait to be busted for breaking and entering, but I’m in. I have an account. With it I now have a public presence, the holy grail of influence mania.

Next week: Creating a channel

Gmail is the Gateway

Aspirations despoil our contentment. I aspire.

My aspirations concern my desire to become an influencer on YouTube, if that’s a thing. After all, I am of the generation who thinks TikTok is the name of a clock repair shop, which leaves me unsure if someone, especially someone my age, can be an influencer anywhere else but on the virtual platform with the timekeeping name.

Therefore my contentment has been despoiled in my search for validation as an influencer. So how do I begin? My first thought is who do you call for advice? My second thought is that it is no longer who but what. These days if you want to know the answer to anything you search the internet. Right? Of course right! For me this insight is progress.

Frustrations ensues. I ask how to create a YouTube account and a video pops up featuring a self-assured young woman. I expected no less. The problem is that she directs me to Google to create a Gmail account. Such is the keeper of the gate to influencer fame. I click the link and am transported to a person-less screen, no human visual, no self-assuredness either. Just a giant statement:

Create a Gmail account

To sign up for Gmail, create a Google Account. You can use the username and password to sign in to Gmail and other Google products like YouTube, Google Play, and Google Drive.

Sign up for a Gmail account

  1. Go to the Google Account sign in page.
  2. Click Create account.
  3. Follow the steps on the screen to set up your account.
  4. Use the account you created to sign in to Gmail.

Create an account

I follow instructions pretty well and click another link. This ones takes me to a sign in screen but I can’t sign in. First I must create the account to sign into. My quick analysis of the situation prompts me to wonder why I wasn’t directed to this second screen first. I guess because all things happen at hyper-drive speed extra steps are inconsequential.

The second screen prompts me to provide personal information, which I will refrain from providing here; not to protect the innocent but to protect the naïve. Fearfully I wait for the body probe to take place. Thankfully it doesn’t, at least not to my knowledge, so I proceed.

Next: A YouTube account.

On Becoming An Influencer

One of my personal obsessions is the need to teach. My family, my professional colleagues – even the readers of my weblog messages – can all attest to the fact that my relationship style is one of teacher to student. I must confess, however, that I’ve often been the student (the failing student) when it comes to understanding women in general and my wife in particular; but we’ll not go there.

Several years ago I established a website. Its primary purpose was to promote me (which is what websites are for) as a consultant in all things related to non-profit management. My consulting career did not go far, which means it did not produce much in the way of personal wealth even though my clients fared well as a result of my advice.

My website consequently wnet into a state of disrepair. And though I keep posting weblog messages, the number of readers is just as dismal. In fact, if you are reading this, then you are alone in your efforts.

I’m not much for social media, but I do come across the term “influencer” from time to time. It strikes me as a euphemism for consultant. And it appears that some of the practitioners of the art of influencing others make out financially in addition to soaking up the adulation that comes from hits, subscribers, viewers and patrons. It troubles me that people far younger than I am have found a way to achieve what I could not. They have my grudging respect for profiting from other peoples’ need to know.

So where does this leave me?

My need to teach is in direct contact with my sense of admiration for those who abide quite comfortably in the viral world. I wish to be like them to a certain extent by dropping the “consultant” image and taking on the “influencer” role. This puts me back into the role of student, but with a teacher’s mindset. And this means I will continue writing these weblog messages in a schizophrenic balancing act of being both teacher and student. You are invited to accompany me on this journey.

I do watch YouTube videos, mostly for entertainment. The few indoctrination videos I’ve  accessed convinces me that this type of platform is my best chance at being an influencer. I merely need to search the internet to find out how.

Therefore, next week’s message will be about what I learned about creating my own YouTube channel as my first step towards fame and (possibly) fortune. This old dog is about to learn a new trick. Arf!

The Sheep Pen Confession: 6

This series on my proposed confession for the 21st Century is based on the historic use of the word confession. It is an admission of faith, not of guilt for a crime.

My confessed tenets are easily remembered by the initials of the Sheep Pen Confession. SPC stands for Service, Presence and Compassion, which were defined in previous messages.

These three essential elements of the confession derive from my interpretation of a story in which the righteous are said to have performed at least one of six actions to benefit others. These include feeding the hungry, providing water to those who thirst, giving hospitality to wanderers, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, and visiting those in prison.

Performing any one of these services provided the doer a metaphoric access to a great king’s sheep pen, the eternal abode of the blessed. But I think there’s more learn from this story as far as our actions are concerned; more in terms of what qualifies as Service, Presence and Compassionate activities.

My own choice for an action which exhibited these three traits involves an unidentified woman, who entered a private dinner and anointed the head of one of those present from a jar of expensive perfume. Her actions brought jeers of contempt from the onlookers, even though they benefited from the aroma of the ointment; which served as a pleasing indicator of her sacrifice.

The recipient was not hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick or in prison; the conditions mentioned above which prompt the actions of the righteous. But he was bereaved, knowing that his death was imminent.

He countered the critical taunts of the others with a simple compliment: “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” He went on to promise the woman that her actions would be proclaimed wherever the good news of his messianic program was preached. The irony of this statement is that the woman’s verbal tormentors would be the ones to tell and retell of her blessed intrusion upon their private gathering.

The woman’s name remains unknown to us. Her compassionate service delivery bore no promise of fame. It did prove to be exemplary, however, though its impact was expressed in a manner even the woman likely did not understand at the time or anticipate.

The one whose hair dripped with the sweet fragrance of the woman’s perfume defined her actions in a manner, which helps us to appreciate that our Service, Presence and Compassion can have an impact beyond the immediate.

He told those in attendance at the dinner, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” A resurrection followed.

In this same way, what we intend may never fully encompass the significance of what we do. Still the doing is required in order for the transcendent benefit to find fulfillment.

Sheep Pen Confession: 5

My current writing obsession involves something of a time warp. The word confession in my title is not an admission of guilt but a throwback to a time when people used the word to express their belief in something of value. Blinded by the specter of our current political trials, we are more inclined to think of a confession as part of someone’s plea bargain to avoid the full consequence of their stupidity.

My own inspiration for saying “I confess” is the Augsburg Confession of 1530. It was a revolutionary statement of faith aimed at a much needed institutional reform, which promised relief from a dogmatic oppression. I am thereby trying to resurrect the historic act of confessing, this time to a plan of hope relevant in the 21st Century.

My confession is based on a story told millennia ago about a king, who returns from a long absence and divides his people into two groups, likened to the way a shepherd divides his herd between the sheep and the goats. The king’s intent was to impart a blessing on the people, whose behavior during his absence best reflected the life-sustaining qualities of his own character.

The story illustrated the king’s desired behavior with six different benevolent actions: feeding the hungry, providing water to those who thirst, giving hospitality to wanderers, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, and visiting those in prison. Performing any one of these services for the sake of another meant the doer would be inducted into the king’s metaphoric sheep pen, the abode of the blessed.

My Sheep Pen Confession proffers three virtues I see embedded in this story. They are easily remembered using the Confession’s initials SPC for Service, Presence and Compassion. In my last message I wrote about the nature of Presence. This time the focus is on the virtue of Compassion.

I make a distinction between pity and compassion. Pity is the passive impression that others are more unfortunate in comparison to one’s self. Compassion transcends mere emotion and demands action. It is the link between the other two virtues, Service and Presence. Compassion propels our fragile egos into the gap between life and death in order to give a cup of water “unto the least of these, my brothers.”

One of my favorite letter writers, the cynical James of the New Testament, called out people for their lack of transparency concerning their self-proclaimed beliefs. He did this with a question appropriate to this message.

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

What good, indeed! Such a query seems to presage the narcissistic illusion of those who believe singing John Lennon’s Imagine is a sign of moral rectitude. Compassion can never be so supercilious.

To paraphrase another letter writer, compassion is the substance of our heartfelt desire, the evidence of character’s presence in a time of visible scarcity. It cannot endure shameless neglect.

The Sheep Pen Confession: 4

My current writing obsession involves something of a time warp. The word confession in my title is not an admission of guilt but a throwback to a time when people used the word to express their belief in something of value. My inspiration is the Augsburg Confession of 1530. It was a revolutionary statement of faith aimed at a much needed institutional reform, which promised a relief from dogmatic oppression. I am thereby trying to resurrect the historic act of confessing to a plan of hope, this one relevant in the 21st Century.

My confession is based on a story told millennia ago about a king, who returns from a long absence and divides his people into two groups, likened to the way a shepherd divides his herd between the sheep and the goats. The king’s intent was to impart a blessing on the people, whose behavior during his absence best reflected the qualities of his own character.

The story, or parable, illustrated the desired behavior with six different actions: feeding the hungry, providing water to those who thirst, giving hospitality to wanderers, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, and visiting those in prison. Performing any one of these services for the sake of another meant the doer would be inducted into the king’s sheep pen, the abode of the blessed.

My Sheep Pen Confession proffers three virtues embedded in this story, which are easily remembered using the Confession’s initials SPC for Service, Presence and Compassion. In my last message I wrote about the nature of Service. This week the focus is on the virtue of Presence.

Presence may not be on anyone else’s list of virtues, but I contend it has a rightful place among the run of the mill virtues like courage, humility and gratitude. The moral bona fides of Presence can be seen in the wisdom of an ancient Hebrew statement of praise; Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence. Psalm 95:15

This is a sentiment with which we can all identify, if not on the spectral scale of person to deity, then in the tangible realm with persons of like kind. We imbue another’s Presence with this quality of light, possessing the capacity to enlighten any moment and comfort through emotional warmth.

From infancy we bond with another using our own innate facial recognition software. Involuntary joy gives birth to a smile, when we visually embrace the one who lovingly hovers over us like a mother bird sheltering her young. The rhythm of this original romance is eternal. It defines the fundamental desire of all future relationships, the desire for Presence.

Contrast this to the trauma of abandonment. We see it in people as well as in things. The ruin, decay and battered appearance of any structure holds true for people as well. We bear the telltale stains of sorrow and despair as prominently as weathered barn wood in need of a makeover. Isolation wears us down bodily until our countenance, our posture, our shuffling step reflect a derelict soul devoid of hope.

Loneliness is an appalling condition as dire as any physical illness. Fellowship is a remedy easily administered through the gracious light of Presence. Merely being with someone has the ability to generate a sense of well-being in a manner that is more effective than our best attempts at reason and right doctrine.

Presence is a virtue which scoffs at the ridiculous notion found in a text message that claims the sender is reaching out to us. And while we may fall back on the trite promise that we will keep in touch with someone, Presence is not susceptible to being mailed in. Nothing can replace the power of eye contact, not even a face time app. For ultimately what matters is that true Presence allows for the invasion of personal space through the touch of a human hand. It renders us vulnerable, the true test of our willingness to sacrifice self for the sake of one who needs our help.