The Quest: Why I Don’t Watch TV At Your House If Your TV Is Too Small

Chapter 2

I am a TV addict. I have a tape somewhere of my second birthday. My parents came in to my bedroom toting a video camera. I think it was one of those over the shoulder numbers that used beta. So they wake me up in my crib with my fluffy red fro. I open my eyes, still filled with sleep, and they say “Happy Birthday.” I stare at them blankly. Cut to the living room. Camera is directed at the hallway. I come wandering out with my mom and head towards the front door. Then I turn and stop at the console television and say “TV! TV! TV!” motioning for them to turn it on. I sit down entirely too close and watch Maya The Bee.

Even at the ripe age of two, it was obvious that I was a fan of television. That fandom has grown over the years. The majority of the shows I have found myself enjoying—well, still do—are dramas. I think it’s mostly because dramas are rich with both episodic plot and serial (season-long) plot. The characters are deeper than what you find in comedies. I am big on character. When I connect to a character, I’m hooked on the show.

Example: ER. Lucy was my favorite character. I remembered her from one of my mom’s favorite shows Life Goes On. During season six, they decided her character wasn’t working and killed her off. I never watched another episode of the show again. You don’t kill off my characters.

Counter example: The OC. I am a big fan of The OC (both the series and the California county). It was quite popular in film school. So popular in fact, I thought it was one of those trendy shows on HBO. As it turned out, it was on Fox so my new roommate and I caught up on the first half of the season at the beginning of the spring semester. I liked Ryan, Seth and Summer very much. Marissa was never my favorite character. At the end of season three, they killed off her character. That didn’t stop be from watching the show.

I think my Grams has it right. Even as a child, I remember her calling the soap operas she enjoyed her “stories.” That’s what they are. They are stories, just like anything else. As a result, I rarely start watching a TV show after it’s been on the air a while. I want to start at the beginning. That’s a lot easier to do now, even midseason. The iTunes store and half seasons on DVD have made catching up pretty easy to do. I learned in film school how hard you have to work to get something on the screen. Every moment is intentional. You don’t start watching a movie halfway through, the same applies to a season of television.

The thing I like most about TV is how long you have to build character and plot. Movies are just a snapshot of a story. I love movies, but they are different than TV. Bigger budgets often make them prettier, but a super amazing story is more and more rare these days. Now there are some elements that movies have going for them, don’t get me wrong. The music is usually better. The effects are always better and the acting is usually better. The story often suffers as a formulaic Hollywood plot. But if you get the right mix together, I’m wowed. Avatar is a great example. It’s a great cinematic feat. As a whole, I totally find movies entertaining, but they are easily forgotten.

TV resonates more with me. I’m fully aware that’s not true for many people, maybe even most people. As my friend Jon put it once in high school, I’m “one weird duck”—which was fitting since my favorite hockey team has always been the Ducks (more on that in chapter four). As strange as it sounds, I have a pretty personal relationship with my television. It’s why I don’t have a roommate right now. When I come home, I want to watch my TV shows. I don’t want to share my TV with anyone. I have two DVRs for the nights when I have three shows that air simultaneously. Before the advent of the TiVo, I used these for every day of the week. I don’t want to miss a minute in the lives of the fictional people that appear in my living room at my command on a big, enormous 42-inch screen. Did anyone catch the Little Shop reference there? I didn’t think so.

Anywho, I’ll close with this. As Shawn once put it on Boy Meets World, “television is the true mirror of our lives.” At least, it feels that way to me sometimes.

What ways to do you find yourself connecting to story in your day-to-day life?

Read the next post in The Quest.

The Quest: How I Got Here

Chapter 1

I’ll see if I can make this relatively short. I was born in the West Texas minor city of Abilene. It’s not too big, but not too small. My parents had their hands full with their two kids. Most of that was on my part. Hey, it’s not my fault I have ADHD. I couldn’t sit still. I asked a million questions and wouldn’t shut up. Many would say not much has changed. Thankfully, my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pemberton, realized that I just needed to be challenged academically and had me tested for the gifted/talented program despite my affinity for eating the homemade peppermint play dough at “centers time.”

At the ripe age of five, I was labeled gifted. That meant I got the G/T certified teachers—code for “trained to deal with Matthew.” While the other kids did busy work, I got to do special projects like hand making puppets out of brown paper bags and performing my own show for the class based on the book Miss Nelson Is Missing. A great literary work, you should check it out, seriously.

Prior to third grade, a larger number of kids are tested for G/T because at this point G/T kids are entered into the ALPS program. Each of Abilene’s 25 elementary schools were assigned one day a week on which the G/T kids traveled to a special site for most of the day where they participate in creative enrichment and what not. I really do think that without the ALPS program I wouldn’t be nearly as creative as I am today.

The summer after fourth grade, I went to my first camp with the Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was the most important event of my life. This is where my connection to story really began. It was a pretty typical format for a Christian summer camp. Small group times, afternoon activities, worship—VBS on steroids. I think it was Wednesday afternoon when they did movie time. The movie was the 1979 animated version of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Sadly the 2005 version was still 10 years away. For those of you that don’t know what it’s about, check out Wikipedia. The allegory of Aslan’s sacrifice led me to salvation that day. Though I had been raised in the Church, I didn’t really get Jesus’ sacrifice. C.S. Lewis’ tale—no matter how poorly brought to the TV that day—was all I needed to put two and two together. Thus began the significance of story in my life.

Despite the lack of quality in the aforementioned animated film, I was a child of the 90s Disney classics. The Little Mermaid (technically ’89), Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Hercules, Mulan… I really liked animation. I couldn’t draw, but I knew somehow I would figure out how to be an animator. Once we got our first home PC with Windows 95 and Office 95. I took it upon myself to reanimate Beauty and The Beast with PowerPoint. It was pretty impressive if I do say so myself. I concluded that computers were my solution to not being able to draw well.

Fast forward to high school. As I progressed through various computer classes, I realized that computer animation was based more on code. That didn’t sound too creative. Thus my lifelong dream of being an animator seemed less and less appealing.

My junior year of high school brought the exciting world of Pre-AP World History. I was lucky enough to get Mrs. Wilson. She had the reputation of making history entertaining, and that she did. She came up with all sorts of crazy projects and pop culture tie-ins to help us actually remember what we learned. These creative endeavors into history ended up taking up more of the semester than she had intended. So as the end of my junior year approached, we were only finishing up 1890. We had three weeks of school and the entire 20th century left to cover. Her solution: divide and conquer. We split up into eight groups (the 90s were deemed recent enough to not be covered). Each group was assigned a decade from the 10s to the 80s. Mrs. Wilson felt the best way to show what we learned was to create a video.

I did my research and convinced my parents to buy a Pinnacle video editing card and software. In my directorial debut, we made a silent film about the 1920s. We got a 100 on the project, of course. I also helped out my good buddy Jon on their project on the 70s entitled “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll”. Cliché maybe, so let’s just say there was some sniffing of powdered sugar involved. It was quite amusing. I got an extra 5 points for that. Anyhow, I realized that film could be a great replacement for animation.

My senior year, I was appointed as a Student Council officer. Among the various projects I was a part of, I was tasked to assist the Senior Class officers with freshman orientation. Our idea evolved into a live stage parody of Dawson’s Creek with me as director. It had a musical number from Moulin Rouge and video opening credits very close to the real thing. Though I never took theatre in high school, this project allowed me the opportunity to collaborate with our theatre director, Mr. Freeman. Once the project was over, he asked about my college plans. I admitted that I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go, but I had decided on film production. USC and NYU topped the list, but I hadn’t decided on any Texas schools. He suggested I check into the film program at UT. As many of you know, that’s where I ended up.

I loved film school, but as graduation approached, I knew I didn’t want to do the typical Hollywood thing. I was highly involved with the Wesley (United Methodist Campus Ministry) at UT. Through the Wesley I ended up making connections that landed me an internship at a local church. That led to meeting my good friend Matt at a mission camp which led to him thinking of me when a Media Ministry Director job opened up at his church. I took that job and moved to the suburbs of San Antonio once I graduated.

After a year at that church part-time and six months part-time at Apple, the opportunity for my current job opened up. I’ve been here three years now. The storytelling aspect of my vocation has diminished a bit over the years. I realize things change, but I can’t help but wonder. Where’s the story in my life? So now I turn to contemplating what it looks like to grow my inner storyteller outside of my vocation. I know God has some great things planned for my future. I’m still ADHD and sure don’t like waiting, but I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I’m happy with my life, but part of me is always a bit restless—waiting for the next chapter in the story.

The quest is ongoing. I continue to search out the ways in which I find myself connecting to story. What’s your story?

Read the next post in The Quest.

The Quest: A Sort of Prologue

I am a storyteller. I haven’t always described myself as such. I mean I went to film school and all. That should have made it pretty obvious that I liked telling stories. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and what I’m supposed to do with my life. Am I doing it now? If I’m not doing it now, what does it look like? Is it vocational or recreational? Why does it matter?

It’s all about story. I may be on to something here. Story. It’s a part of our everyday lives. It’s something that brings us together. We’re entertained by story. We see it on TV, in movies, in pictures, in blogs, in the news, in a book, over conversations at Starbucks… It’s all around us. We like to share our stories. We want to know other people’s stories. I think it’s not only inherent to being human but it’s uniquely human. It’s about more than events (plot). It encompasses locations (settings) and other people (characters). Things we heard about academically from the time we crossed the threshold into Kindergarten (or Preschool for those of you that went).

I think we’re all on a quest for story. We want to know who we are, what we’re supposed to do with our lives, who we’re going to marry, what our kids will become, what will make us happy, where we are supposed to live, when is the time right for whatever… I know I have a few of those questions. Okay, more than a few. The Quest drives many of us in varying ways.

I’m a dreamer. I wonder about the answers to those questions on my personal quest to find out my own story. Maybe that’s part of what makes me a good storyteller. Being a dreamer that is. Remember, we’re all on a quest. So, about the dreamer thing, I don’t really know. Nonetheless, I’m thinking about life’s what ifs more often than I can keep track of. Why? It’s all about the quest. Okay, it’s really all about the story. But the quest is about finding the story, so it’s about the quest too.

Do you see the quest for story in your life and are you actively pursuing it?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Dunechaser

Read the next post in The Quest.

Ending Hiatus

Hello, my name is Matt, and it’s been 93 days since my last jump. I’ve been trying to get a jump in for a couple of weeks now. The weather has not cooperated much this fall/winter season. Since we returned to an El Niño weather pattern this fall, getting jumps in has been rather difficult. It’s been cloudy and rainy—great for alleviating summer’s drought.

It cleared up this weekend. Yesterday was a bit windy, so I decided to wait until this morning. I called the DZ, and though it was cloudy, they said to come on out since the forecast called for the clouds to clear within a couple of hours of sunrise. Due to the lapse in my jumps, I had to do a extensive emergency procedures review. Greg, my frequent instructor, was in charge of making sure I still remembered everything. After we reviewed everything, I got my usual pack and checked it out. Thus began the waiting. I had anticipated it being busy, so I brought my Kindle along for some reading. I got a couple of chapters in before noon and realized it wasn’t going to clear up. They were going to give it about another half hour before calling it for the day, but I decided to leave.

I was feeling pretty nervous on the way out. With such a big lapse in jumps, I had way too long to think about it. So I’m glad I was able to go out today and relax. By the time I left, I felt a lot better. I think with the chiropractic care and some work we did today on ways to keep my arch, I will well on L2 attempt 4 when I finally get to do it. Hoping for blue skies on Saturday!

A Break

So, I decided to skip a week between jumps. I went to Academy to buy an exercise ball on my mom’s suggestion. I ended up with two of these strange peanut shaped exercise balls. I’m able to suspend myself between them in what sort of looks like an arch. It’s definitely really uncomfortable. My back doesn’t stretch that way. It’s pretty strange. I tried doing an arch against a wall and found it difficult to hold for a whole minute.

I had planned to get back to the drop zone after skipping a weekend but had to head out of town for a family death. The following two weekends have been full of bad weather and thus yielded no jumps. I’ve hit the 30 day between jumps mark and will have to do a refresher course when I make it back. I have a minor surgical procedure to remove a cyst that will keep me from jumping the first weekend in December. I may have picked the worst time of year to pick up this sport.

Over the last couple of weeks, I took some further advice from several friends and decided to go see a chiropractor. Something was not quite right in my lower back, and I needed to figure out what. To make the story short, my back is much tighter than is should be. We’ve got it a little looser and I find that heat helps. I may look like an idiot, but I’ve got a heating pad in my car to use on the way out to the DZ whenever I can get there. My last visit to the chiro raised a few flags that will be looked into more tomorrow. I may have a bit of scoliosis that has cause some extra muscle tension that may need to be worked on. So maybe it’s best that I haven’t been able to jump in a while. I may not physically be ready yet. I have some vacation time that I have to use up before February, so maybe I’ll use that time to get some jumps in, if the weather is good. I’ll find out more about my back soon and keep everyone posted. The doc says it’s been helpful for me to have a goal of arching my back. He’s tailored my care to achieve that goal, so we’ll get there. I’m just not terribly patient/

I’m not giving up. I’ve already prepaid the DZ a lot of money. I’m just waiting for the back to work out and for the weather to cooperate. This is one of those times living in Southern California would be helpful. They’ve seemed to have clear skies everyday the past month nearly. Oh well. I’ll get back up in the sky soon enough. Actually, I’m flying to Dallas for a Ducks game this week since I can’t do any sports. But I won’t get to jump out of that plane.

Blue skies!

Jump #7

Well, I ventured out to the drop zone for another Friday jump. I was determined to get this one right. Things were running a little slow at the DZ, so I didn’t make it on the first load. I was paired with my usual instructor Greg, to go over the pre-jump checks. They were pretty quick because I was starting to get the hang of it. My second instructor, Ray, joined us halfway into the checks. I’d never seen Ray before, but he was a refreshingly mellow guy. Since I was having issues relaxing, this was a good thing. I knew that my only real problem was the arch. The RW is pretty easy to pick up once you can get stable. I’d tried to get some stretching in at home, but it’s really uncomfortable to do when you don’t have 120 mph winds holding you up horizontally. I tried some vertical stretching, but that just made my lower back hurt. We were prepped for load 2 and went out to wait for the plane.

I knew the biggest thing I needed to do on the way up to altitude was to relax and breathe. Thanks to some sound advice from the great community at skydive-info.com, I had some various techniques of chilling to try. When it was finally our turn to exit the plane after a quick circle back, I was much calmer than I had been on any of my previous jumps. The exit wasn’t perfect, but we quickly settled down, sort of. I still can’t arch enough. My stretching trials during the week hadn’t helped. I feel like I really just can’t arch my back like a normal human being. It was rather frustrating. We never really got into position this time, so I didn’t get to try any of the maneuvers. I was still calm, but really didn’t know what to do to make things work. I was arching best I knew how to no avail. Obviously I failed again. But I felt better about the jump, just disappointed. I’m thinking I need a week off to get some stretching in.

Jump #5 & Jump #6

Well the weather cleared up Friday after all. It was a beautiful jump. So I made it out to the DZ at 10 to make it on the first load. My second instructor was running a bit late, so I was put on load 2. The DZ was a little busy so we got fly the TO instead of the Caravan. When I was at the DZ on Monday, I was sure to pay attention to the instruction given to the young lady (I think her name was Janelle) that was doing L2. Now that I had proved I could deploy my own chute, it was time to work on body position.

This jump adds a 90˚ left team turn, a 90˚ right team turn and a 4-second forward team movement. I knew I could do the third maneuver since I’d done it accidentally in both L1 jumps in attempts to find the sweet spot for my leg position. We practiced on the ground on the spinny thing (I forget what it’s called) and at the mock up. We geared up and prepped for the jump.

I was a little nervous again but at least knew what to expect. There were two tandems and two teams with us on the load so I knew I’d be the last one off as always. I, somewhat successfully, tried to calm down on the ride up. I wasn’t too worried about remember the dive flow. I’d done it twice now and remembered both times. Adding the three maneuvers to the extra freefall time would be a piece of cake…yeah, right.

The two teams exiting before us at 13.5 took their time exiting, so we had to circle back around. This was not helpful on the nerves. The exit was a little less than stellar. I tried to arch better, but it’s really hard to do that when you’re looking down at the ground instead of chin up like you’re supposed to. I had this same problem with skating for hockey at first. I always wanted to watch my feet. Anyhoo, my positioning was a bit off so it took us a while to get stabilized. I tried to follow the leg signals I was given, but I still need to work on minor adjustments, so there was still a lot of overcorrecting. After my practice pulls, I initiated the left turn. I didn’t do a very good job. We sorta did a turn, but it wasn’t 90˚. They signaled to neutralize and try the other turn. It went about as well as the right until Terry pushed my shoulder down a little further. I was trying to do all of the turn with my arm and not my whole upper body. It definitely worked a little better, but was pretty slow.

By this point, we were at 7,500 ft, so I didn’t have time to continue with the forward movement. Here’s where it got a little interesting. We neared 6,000 and I was ready to wave off when all of a sudden, my altimeter flipped out and bounced down to 5,000 and back up to below 6,000. I knew that an altimeter malfunction meant pull and I was just reaching back as Terry gave me the pull hand sign. I complied as I had already planned to and had an uneventful canopy ride. In retrospect, the winds aloft were a bit strong, so I got a little closer to the landing area than I needed to initially, but Greg helped me find the proper playground via radio.

We debriefed and discussed that my body position wasn’t good enough to be let go of yet (necessary for L3) so, I knew I had to repeat L2. At this point it was only 2ish so I had more than enough time to stay around for another attempt. This is starting to get expensive. Understandably, you have to repay the cost of the entire jump to redo it. These early jumps are more expensive because you have two instructors with you for the jump. But, I knew I hadn’t found that sweet spot yet, and knew that it was important to do so.

We didn’t have to wait too long before it was time to gear up for the last load of the day (#4). My consistent chute (99-3, a 250 sqft lime green, yellow and pink canopy) was repacked just in time for me to take it back up. Our equipment check was quick, but safe. Since I’d just used the rig, I knew where everything was to check and was prepped to go.

Arch. Arch. Arch. That’s the only word I was thinking about on the way up other than keeping an eye on where we were over the DZ and relaxing. Apparently mind over matter doesn’t really work for me. We exited better and I kept my chin up, but I still couldn’t find the right position. We “potato chipped” quite a bit and it took a while to stabilize. Once we did, I did my checks and started the left turn. It was much better. We didn’t have time for any other maneuvers. I waved and pulled with no problems. The canopy ride was a bit better placed in the playground. I was much more aware of the winds aloft and knew I needed to steer away from the DZ for a while. The landing was a bit muddy due to the recent rain but pretty solid. I still failed due to the unstable body position. I decided to take a break until Friday. I’ve gotta practice arching at home. I just have to teach my body how to bend that way. It’ll happen. I just can’t keep paying for rejumps. Blue skies!

Jump #4

So I failed L1. It happens, but I don’t like things like that looming over my head. Knowing that winter (and cloudy skies) is nigh, I know that taking advantage of clear days is wise. With my to do list being short due to my project coordinator out one more day on vacation and Friday’s forecast looking rainy, I figured redoing the jump would be best suited for a Monday morning. I arrived at the DZ a little before 10 to find another student doing her L2 waiting in the lobby. After checking in at manifest, I waited for instruction.

After a short wait, we headed to the gear room. This time we went over the equipment inspection procedures and talked about the wind patterns. Having had two semesters of weather at UT, I have a pretty good understanding of the wind forecast and can even, albeit slowly, convert knots to mph. We geared up and I was paired with Erik, who taught my ground school, and Greg. We went over the dive flow outside at the aircraft mock up and headed to wait for the Caravan.

I was definitely much more relaxed for this jump, still nervous, but more relaxed. On the way up, we went over the dive flow in reverse order til altitude. The exit was much better this time. We wobbled a little but settled down. I did the apropriate COA check. Both instructors told me to extend my legs and I quickly overcorrected. Then they told me to bring them back in and I overcorrected. I still don’t have a handle on exactly where they go. They went ahead and gave me the thumbs up for my practice pulls. I permormed them a little jerky but successfully. I finally relaxed for the last 1500 ft. and had great position.

Here’s the important part: I waved and pulled at 5500! I need to work on a bigger wave, but I passed.

The canopy deployed with a simple line twist that I quickly corrected without freaking out. I followed Erik’s instructions guiding me in. Before landing I flared a bit early and then let up a little too much. Erik told me to flare flare flare and I did. I hit the ground a little hard and just fell to my knees with a quick return to my feet.

All in all it was a great jump. I’m ready for L2 this weekend weather permitting.

Jump #3

Well I got up nice and early to drive to the DZ for ground school. I got there an entire 15 minutes before I had to be there. Which, for those that know me well, is kind of a big deal. I’m generally not an award-winning morning person.

Ground school got off to a 30-minute late start with only 3 of us. The other half of the class was, apparently, a group of friends that had overslept. They didn’t make it. Ground school covers a lot of information. I was a little familiar with some of the stuff from reading so much on the Internet over the last two months. I only missed one question on the test. The only reason I missed it is because our instructor skipped that part of the instructing. We finished up at 12:40ish. Continue reading “Jump #3”