Playing With Power – Pt. 1 [Featured]

What you are about to read, should you decide to read it, is all true to the best of my recollection. I have had a long, strange, journey through the video game industry. I have hundreds of stories, this is just one of them.

Nintendo Street Team: 2004
Remember Link Cables?

It’s for breakfast now.

It’s interesting to see all the news about Nintendo recently and the expected fiscal loss posting. “First time in 30 years…” “Lower than expected interest in the 3Ds.” “20 billion yen.”, etc etc. I really only have one question: “Is anyone really that surprised?”

Ok, let me preface this with a few things.

  1. I am not a financial professional. I don’t analyze trends, stocks, or earning strategies.
  2. I am not a corporate business strategist. I understand the complexities of running a business, but I am by no means familiar with the intricacies of running a massive, multinational, corporation.
  3. I have worked for and with Nintendo in the past (2002-2007). In fact, I did through one of their darkest hours, the end of the GameCube lifecycle, in what was essentially “the trenches”, Marketing and Promotions. I was also there for one of the truly brightest moments, the launch of the Wii.
  4. Yes, I’ve met Reggie Fils-Amie. I sat across from him at a marketing meeting in New York City in 2004 and told him we should probably forget Geist ever existed and focus on Resident Evil 4 and Metroid Prime 2 for that particular holiday season. I’m not saying it affected anything either way, but we all know how that turned out.

In any case, all I present here is my experience with Nintendo, the frustration that came with working for them, especially as a fan of the company and their products, the insight it gave me to the insane swing-set-riding-a-roller-coaster that the company exists on, and why it should surprise no one that they’re on the big downswing yet again.

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The Eyes of Disarray: Pt. 1

This is going to be a long one. I’m really far behind on a lot of things simply due to the craziness of my recent travel and shooting schedule. So, if you’re content to read it all in one go, grab a cup of coffee, a snack, and let’s get caught up. I’ll wait.

Good to go? Alrighty then.

Mario Barth’s “Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth”

BTSOE 2011

AKA: Amazing People, Terrible Lighting.

This actually happened about three weeks ago, which is crazy to think about since it seems like I was just there. I was invited down to the Mario Barth’s Biggest Tattoo Show On Earth by my best friend, Stephen, who was working at the show with the company he works for, Anatometal. His boss, and owner of Anatometal, Barry Blanchard, is a bit of a photog, so the offer was extended to come down and shoot for the show. It wasn’t an actual paid gig beyond what I can license out, but it was worth it for the people I met and the shooting I was able to do. I had a lot of exclusive access to show happenings, so that was a good time. I shot thousands of photos and I’m still trying to process the backlog of them all. The odds of anything significant coming out of them are low, but it did lead to some other opportunities and potential work.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

I’ve been disconnected from the body modification scene for a while. I first got pierced when I was 16 (ears/tongue/nipples) and tattooed when I was 18 (my 2nd day after moving to NYC). It’s been part of my life for a long time, but my involvement in the community fell off drastically when I started touring for a living and especially now that BME‘s “IAM” (an amazing social network that existed before social networks were even a thing) has seen its last days. There just isn’t the time to devote to it. My arms remain unfinished and I’ve removed a lot of my facial piercings and while I don’t really see the need to get any more piercings, I do want to finish my tattoos, and get a few more.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

Being in Vegas, though, made me realize not just how disconnected I’d become, but also how much the entire industry has not particularly changed that much. The events are still kind of gimmicky and a lot of the industry still deals with a lot of cliché and stereotype. Granted, you kind of have to be when so much of the business is based on the general public. While I do not doubt the creativity, talent, and artistry involved, the whole industry could still use an injection of professionalism and organization. Administrative bodies like the APP have gone a long way with that, but given how old the trade is, I’m surprised it’s still as slap-dash as it is. I do love the people though. The unique expressionism, attitude, and overall acceptance of the community is amazing.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

I got to meet Bill Tinney and his wife at BTSOE, which was a huge highlight. He is an incredible photographer and old hat to a lot of these events. I got some great advice from his wife over the weekend and I’ve taken it all to heart. It offered me a bit of an unexpected perspective change and I am certainly grateful for it.

The Monday after the show, I had a long talk with my dad about life and business and travel while I waited for the bus back to LA. It was right on time. I jumped on and headed back to Los Angeles without incident. Not bad for $25.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

So yeah. A long, introspective bus ride both ways, through the desert. It provided further affirmation for me though that my personal values seem to exist in a space that is just not aligned with the majority of people I know. It doesn’t affect the work that I am able to produce on a technical level, but the longer I’m around people in a “professional” setting, the more I find I have to just isolate myself and work on my own level. I was kind of hoping it was just the result of working around people I’d never worked with before (aside from Stephen) and who are from a completely different industry. It’s not that there is no common ground, just highly different values and operational procedure. I end up hearing the same thing I’ve heard my entire life… “Why are you so serious all the time?” The post right before this one expands on this concept. Little did I know this would come up again, in a much more exaggerated fashion, a couple weeks later.

So, like I mentioned, it was a long bus ride through the desert back to LA from Vegas. I’ve made that drive many times in my life. On the way back, they showed “Despicable Me“, which I’d never seen and thought was pretty funny, “500 Days of Summer“, which I’d also never seen and didn’t particularly enjoy for personal reasons, and “When In Rome“, which I have, amazingly, seen before but cannot remember where. I listened to my usual podcasts and did a lot of staring out the window.

Back to the City of Angels

Hollywood Sunset
Hollywood Sunset

The bus actually got back to LA early, but then the LA Metro (if you can even call it that) was having all kinds of delays, so that pretty much canceled out any progress that had been made. I hoofed it back to Michelle’s place in Hollywood and got ready to jump over to my brother’s condo in Santa Monica for my last few days in LA. One of the last things I did in Hollywood was do some light wardrobe shopping in an attempt to reconnect with myself. It sounds silly, but reshuffling my clothes a little has gone a ways towards making me feel more comfortable with myself.

Marc
Marc

My brother is an interesting guy. I have no idea how he affords to live the lifestyle he does, or how no woman has yet managed to kill him for some of the relationship decisions he’s made. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as we’ve grown older, the bond that is brotherhood and family has pushed aside our differences. All in all he’s a great guy and I really enjoyed my time hanging out with him. His new condo is incredible and I’ve never explored Santa Monica all that much. I spent some time on the beach, staring at the ocean, shooting some photos, and spent the rest getting packed up and ready to fly back to Santa Cruz. I culled a lot out of my suitcase and considerably lightened my load. I would have to hit the ground running in SC, since I was immediately departing on a 3 day drive to Albuquerque, NM for “Rock The Ink: 2011“.

The Road There

Fish(eye) in the desert.
Fish(eye) in the desert.

Originally I was going to fly to Albuquerque, NM and meet up with Stephen and the Anatometal crew for Rock The Ink: 2011, a convention that Anatometal is heavily involved in. The offer was extended after my initial introduction in Las Vegas. When I mentioned flying down, Barry (the Anatometal owner) instead suggested that I drive down with him in his massive “house on wheels” RV. All I had to do was get to back to Santa Cruz. Well, it sounded like an adventure so I grabbed my camera, booked my ticket back to SC, and was on my way. It was going to be three days through the desert, not even a blip on the radar compared to my touring days, in a completely ridiculous vehicle. What’s the worst that could happen?

Now, don’t get me wrong, Barry and his 2nd in command, Tod, are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Great senses of humor, hospitable, generous, and fun to hang out with, Barry and I can wax photographica endlessly. The two of them represent a wealth of life experience I only hope I can one day achieve. There is one massive caveat though…

Looking Back
Looking Back

The two of them smoke more cigarettes than I have ever witnessed any human beings smoke in my life. I had an ex-girlfriend who smoked a lot, but these two put her to shame. Driving down the road, it’s no big deal. Just pop the windows open and it’s fine. I’m not a complainer and smoking in general doesn’t really bother me that much. My extensive touring experience has given me a pretty thick skin. I know how the road works. Where it killed me though, was at night when the RV is parked and closed up. I know now what it must be like to try and asphyxiate yourself in a garage. I’m not about to ask or tell a man to not smoke in his own house though.

I was willing to overlook the catastrophic effects on my health, but the damage that cigarette smoke can do to my equipment had me really worried. The gear I travel with, my camera, my laptop, my clothes… are all I have (yes, the same argument exists for my health). While I do hold the philosophical opinion that everything in my life is ultimately replaceable (with one, critical, exception), the practical reality is that I am not in a position to just be willy-nilly buying new things if they get damaged or destroyed. I understand that everyone’s situation is not the same, I only ask that they respect mine. Yeah, not so much. I did my best to keep my gear sealed up tight, but it was akin to fighting the tide.

Side Trips

On the way down to Albuquerque, we made two real side trips and one minor one. The first was a scant ride over to an abandoned water park outside of Yermo, CA. The second, a three and a half hour drive from AZ to Utah, up to Monument Valley that would push my tolerance to its limits. It would be the first of two times it would happen on this trip.

Yermo, CA – Abandoned Water Park

Decay
Abandoned Water Park

Barry and Tod had been talking about this place since Vegas. It’s just off The 15 near Yermo, CA. I was hoping for a bit more urban decay than I got, but it is still an amazing site for shooting photos. I would love to get some people and models together and go back and do a proper shoot. This trip was mostly exploratory for me, but I did manage to get some fun shots in. I have a much better idea about the site now and will definitely be returning.

Ok, that is enough TL:DR for now. Part 2 will be inbound shortly.

Your smile is a thin disguise.

Fish(eye) in the desert.
Fish(eye) in the desert.

I’ve been sitting on a huge post draft that goes through all the crazy travel I’ve been doing recently. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Albuquerque, and back again. I’m currently on the road back to Santa Cruz. I’ll recoup there for a few days and decide where to next.

Unexpected Places
Unexpected Places

Part of that post was devoted to my recent trek to Albuquerque, NM from Santa Cruz, CA via RV, to shoot photos for Rock The Ink 2011 and then back again. It’s been a trying experience on more than one level, far more so than any tour I’ve ever been on, regardless of duration or circumstance. I’ve been on some pretty bad tours too.

The Road
The Road

The biggest part of this whole experience has been further confirmation that my personal and professional values just do not align with the vast majority of people I interact with. I find myself constantly at odds with how people function and the choices they make. Their conduct. I’m not saying that they are right or wrong, just that they do not ever seem to agree with my own. I always do my best to maintain a strict sense of professionalism and respect. In any given scenario my tendency to overthink means that I constantly considering the consequences of my actions and behavior. I tend to err on the side of caution. I stay quiet and focused. I set parameters and do not stray outside of them for a given task (though I, of course, always remain adaptable to any situation). This usually results in people saying that I am “too serious” or “too intense” and that I should “lighten up” or “relax”. It is very rare that I am around people who work on the same level that I do, who will take things seriously. To me, that is professionalism (Note: It is possible to enjoy your work and still be serious about it. You can have fun while working. It’s a matter of retaining focus on the job at hand). On a personal level, it means that my default is to always consider the effects of my actions and choices. I typically will not cross boundaries that I feel could be potentially disrespectful, regardless of my personal preferences. As I said, I tend to always err on the side of caution.

The Road
The Road

I’ve found that a lot of people do not. The try to force attention to themselves, or are concerned only with their own personal preferences. I’ve also found that these same people nearly always feel that their “way” is the “best” or “how things should be” without consideration for others. It is especially bad when people aren’t even self aware enough to recognize that in themselves. This leads to the aforementioned “too serious” style comments. It’s easy to see where this is going. Given that my personal values hardly ever align with those of others and the fact that 95% of people I find myself around are focused solely on their own, it creating increasingly uncomfortable, difficult, and frustrating situations. It makes working difficult and that feeds into a vicious cycle of not being able to enjoy my work, so I have to focus more on the serious side in order to produce the results I want. This feeds back into me seeming like I am incapable of having fun or enjoying what I am doing.

The Road
The Road

I once read that you should always strive to team up with people who are your general equal. If the other person is more skilled than you, they don’t need you. If you are more skilled, you don’t need them. Granted, people possess different skill sets, so it’s really a sense of “equality” across the board. You’d never learn anything new otherwise. I’ve heard this same concept applied to relationships, but that’s a conversation for a different time.

The Road
The Road

This trip also highlighted that I just don’t get people sometimes. Well, when it comes to personal interactions anyway. Observationally, I am very skilled at deciphering people and their motivations. I generally understand people and how they work. As soon as the interactions turn personal though (beyond general formalities), I find myself not sure how to react. It’s not that I have expectations; I just can’t always correctly interpret people’s actions or intentions towards me. Since I always side with caution, I think people understand that as disinterest, which usually is not the case. I am constantly entertaining dozens and dozens of options/actions and their implications (this was previously outlined in a post about my natural ability to see “avenues of possible outcomes”, the ability to easily anticipate people’s reactions). Without a clear understanding of intention though, I’m never sure what course of action to follow. I hate feeling like I am “overstepping boundaries”. I’ve been told that this is a somewhat unfair strategy, since my actions/reactions are required to confirm intention. The idea of misreading someone’s intention stops me in my tracks though. I’d rather politely do nothing. Something to work on I suppose.

The Road
The Road

Another trend I’ve noticed recently is people abruptly ending conversations. This is especially true lately in digital communications. Email, text, IM, etc. A conversation will start, questions, answers, general talking and then it’s like the person at the other end just walks in the middle of it without any kind of warning. Now, I of course understand that people are busy, and have lives, get distracted, have things come up, but it’s been unusually prevalent lately. People dodging questions has been common lately too.

So anyway, travel recap on the way.