On the origins of my perceived lunacy

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Friday January 15, 2010.

I like explaining what inspires me to do certain things. With this site being my biggest creative outlet for things I’m not paid to do, the people that visit here tend to get tastes of some pretty weird stuff, and often those people (you!) think I’m a pretty strange dude. That’s probably true, but without explaining why it happens the way it does, I feel like I won’t ever be able to move on to the next strange thing. So today I want to explain some of the more recent things this site has housed for me.

Video series

It’s actually been quite some time since these began, but I have produced two long-running video series over the past year and a half: A Memo to Ed Adkins and my series lazily titled Film Project Shorts. Both had origins that are very interesting to me and purposes that are larger than what most people realized.

A Memo to Ed Adkins

This series was ten parts, as it was always meant to be. It was a series that asked simple questions of an internet and Black Rock City cult leader named Ed Adkins. Ed and I go way back. At one time, there weren’t a lot of bloggers in Reno, but the two of us were. We met through our blogs and became friends. Since we were a part of this world very early, we naturally were considered ahead of the game by a lot of people who are now a part of it. Perhaps more than anyone I know, Ed found some minor fame online and is now leveraging that into business opportunities.

Ed was a reluctant adopter of certain things. Twitter, for instance, is something he was against for a long time before finally embracing it with the Full Monty. He’s now as deeply engaged in it as might be possible. He was similarly reluctant to adopt any and all aspects of what we’re all calling “social media” and trying to capitalize on our knowledge of. His role as resident insult comic forced him to be overtly critical of these things and to mock those who chose to openly embrace them—and rightfully so. We created an entire community of douchebags all trying to outdo each other on their social media skillz. Ed outright refused to be a part of that while I did not. Except there’s more to it.

See, Ed was always a part of it. He just wanted the world to know he was first. Around here, anyway. So he mocked. And he did it well. So well, in fact, that while the rest of us idiots were at a conference in Las Vegas—the New Media Expo, for God’s sake—in 2008 we were all talking. The conference was focused on podcasting, which I had done during 2005 and was inspired to get back into, so I decided that I would start a new podcast. Ed was being a particular thorn in my side because of the conference, so, and I can’t remember if it was my idea or the group’s anymore, it was decided that I would start a video podcast where I counter-mocked Ed’s mocking by positioning him as the penultimate expert in all things digital media. Here is the first one:

In that, you can see that I was making sure to tell Ed that he’s important to the internet. From that point, I focused each episode on a single question, posed to Ed, but meant for all of the internet to answer. The mocking of Ed’s expertise in “all things internet” was supposed to be a call to the rest of the internet to answer the question and engage in a larger social discussion. Unfortunately, what happened was not that everyone chimed in and helped me solve those pressing issues, but instead that a lot of people that knew Ed and came to learn who I was through those videos thought I might be serious. They asked me what my problem with Ed was, why I was so focused on Ed, and things like that. It was a complete failure to communicate sarcasm. However, if you know me you also know that I don’t mind that one bit. Sarcasm is used for the purpose of figuring out who doesn’t get the joke. Now I know.

Those continued for ten episodes. The tenth was meant to be me arriving unannounced at Ed’s front door with the camera rolling. I have no idea what would have happened if I had done that, but I didn’t. That’s partly because I haven’t been to his house since he moved downtown and I don’t know where it is.

I view the series as an artistic masterpiece of my own making. Some episodes were lauded for their creativity, but every one was a perfect creation in my own eyes. I have recently been asked about them and who the hell Ed is. We remain friends today and there are no hard feelings that I’m aware of for these videos.

Film Project Shorts

Even when I explain to people what these are they have no idea what I’m talking about. So I’ll show you. After trying to explain. In 2008 we had a presidential election. One candidate, named Mike Gravel tripped the internet out with a couple of weird-ass videos. The first—“Rock”—is below:

The second—“Fire”—is not quite as excellent, but still weird. I absolutely loved them after my initial reaction of “WTF?” I thought for a long time about the videos, occasionally watched them again, and continued working on all kinds of other things. When “Memo to Ed Adkins” ended, I had to keep the momentum going. I immediately thought about Mike Gravel and decided I’d do a series paying homage to his misunderstood genius (I mean seriously, how awesome would a president who has videos like that be?). I just had to think of the right kinds of things to happen. As is usual, I had no idea what the series would look like when it finished, but I knew how it would start.

Below is the first in the series. It is titled “Garage”:

All titles in the series were to be one word only, have no sound other than music and natural ambience, and should closely resemble a Mike Gravel video with perhaps a comedic element subtly added. Again, this was a series built upon sarcasm, so there was a joke to get and I hate telegraphing jokes. All videos also had to be shot in HD because it is cooler than SD. I also wanted the framing to be part of the fun. I am hugely partial to wider aspect ratios in video shooting (a little of the video geek coming out here) and love the ability to compose a shot properly in the wider aspect. So that went into every single one of these videos.

Garage progressed into Hose which was the Fire to Garage’s Rock. Then I had to continue finding interesting things. I was looking for 10 episodes. At one point I decided that the music from Terminator was necessary, so I added it in what may have been the best video in the series, Shotgun. Shotgun was not even my idea. Jim Scripps and I were talking about different things I could do with the movies, and he said you should do one called Shotgun where you’re just riding shotgun. I loved it and originally wanted to place the camera on the hood of the car to make it obvious what Shotgun meant. That was impossible. It was almost impossible to put the camera on the dash like I did, which is why the shot is framed so weird. I got more comments on that movie than anything else I did.

The final movie, as I progressed through this, was meant to be one major joke on a friend. He had visited Morocco and produced no less than 1,463 blog posts about his trip, spanning months. I had been working on a makeshift green screen and decided, with Jim’s help again, to shoot myself in front of the green screen and superimpose the shot over his photos from Morocco. It was brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that the friend didn’t get the joke to such a large degree that he sent a letter on Blip.tv telling them that I had violated copyright by using his images without attribution. It pissed me off and I took the video down everywhere. I still have it, but it’s not available to anyone without my login info on YouTube. On a side note, I could have gotten away with leaving the stuff up since Fair Use probably applied (I was commenting on his trip, which was newsworthy enough to him to post over and over and over about it) and I actually had attributed the work—just not to his specific standards. Oh well.

I consider those movies a resounding success. Despite know from about the third one on that they were just going to be me sitting there silently, people continued to watch them. My hoped-for audience was not the entire internet this time. It was just the people I know locally who play around on Twitter. They watched. I even parodied the series myself by claiming I was doing an audio podcast using the iPhone app called AudioBoo.

The aftermath

I started a new video series later on, and haven’t actually finished it yet. It includes three videos which I will complete with the fourth soon. After that, I will also explain that one as it is somewhat of a riddle. I’ve had to explain it to several people so far, and believe me, it’s not that complex. It even came up in my interview with a committee of people when I applied for my current job. I was proud of that moment as I learned that they were watching it and trying to figure it out, which was my intent. Maybe I’m getting better at the subtle thing.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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