Reality Stretches Believably ~ The Carbanaro Effect

There are very few things that can put a smile on my face every single time. Magic shows are one of them. That makes The Carbarnaro Effect my anti-happy pill.

Michael Carbanaro is a magician who sets up in various locations like second hand stores, doctor’s offices, army supply stores, and basically tricks total strangers into believing they have seen something impossible. Like any good magician, his act is as much about the ability to win someone over with a charming personality and a winning smile as it is to stun them with the trick. Because with a few exceptions, he is his own “pretty girl” assistant. He has to be the distraction as well as the performer.

Stage magic is one of those things that I already know has an explanation behind it. I know that every single trick I am seeing is a carefully choreographed and well planned act.

One of my very first appearances on stage was as the assistant to a stage magician way back when I was in the first grade. I just did as the magician told me and I held the props and I was still as much a part of the audience as anyone else, because to this day I can’t tell you how he did any of the stuff he did. As an adult, I still have that sense of wonder and amazement every time I see someone like that kid with the card tricks in Marblehead and Carbanaro on television.

But I’m just tuning into the show as the invisible fourth wall viewer, as protected from the subject of the magic trick as the hidden cameras situated throughout the break rooms and offices that are Carbanaro’s sets. His show has been on the air for at least three years that I know of and that doesn’t take into account how long he’s been practicing the show.

My questions is always how long does he have before everyone starts seeing him and thinks, “Oh, I’m totally on camera, aren’t I?”

Then what’s keeping the people who have been tricked from tweeting it once Michael makes the big reveal at the end? I assume he reveals himself at the end of every clip, we just don’t see all of them because the editors have to decide the overall theme of each show. But then you have the really memorable episodes like the one from the most recent season with Shaq. It’s only a matter of time before the Internet is saturated with Tweets, Facebook posts, and the blog posts of second rate authors who just happen to like the show, and then the Carbanaro Effect will have to transform into a box set.

I also have it in the back of my head that there are people out there who don’t like to be pranked and tend to take things personally. I’m guessing there are scouts for TruTV who go out and try to get a general feel for the kinds of people that frequent an area. Shoppers at a second hand store tend to be very casual and relaxed, so you’re not as likely to get someone who responds with, “Oh yeah, well here’s my magic trick. I’m going to magically turn two eyes into one!” BAM!

This questions comes to me from a completely different reality TV show that takes a CEO of a company, dresses him up like the average starting level employee, then sends her into the working environment to see how things are really run behind the scenes. Presumably a camera crew is always following them, so it’s not like hidden cameras are all over the place before the CEO arrives there.

My personal theory is that Undercover Boss has been secretly filming for decades and we’re just seeing the backlog of cut together episodes. Because people aren’t stupid. You see some pockmarked face kid filling out a job application with a camera crew and sound equipment all over him, eventually you’re going to think that either a movie is being shot at this location, or that the kid is really a seventy year-old man who owns the company. And how Youtube is not flooded with videos of these shoots taking place is beyond me, but my overall point is that the shelf life of reality shows like this can’t be very long.

Even the perverts were starting to recognize Chris Hansen. Even though sex crime stings are still happening even now, practiced by police divisions all over the world without the help of Dateline, nearly every pedo who goes online remembers the decade of television that actually made people feel sorry for them. And I’m sure they’re only mildly surprised whenever they see that it’s not actually the iconic reporter who won an award for his work on the series.

Personally, I hope to see many more episodes of the Carbanaro Effect in years to come. Better yet, I want Dateline to do another series of To Catch a Predator, only instead of being confronted by Chris Hansen, you would have Michael Carbanaro appear from behind the curtain to interview the suspect with a clip board that makes a loud buzzing noise every time the suspect lies.

Challenging Preconceived Ideas ~ Inspired by Being Human (BBC)

One of the challenges I face as a writer is how others perceive my writing and therefore, how they perceive me. Anne Rice received plenty of criticisms when she temporarily ended the Vampire Chronicles to pursue a trilogy about Jesus and at least one book about angels. The death of her husband had a lot to do with that, but people still had their two cents just as they did when she wrote the equally controversial Memnoch the Devil.

You can’t change what people think of you. There’s only so much time you can spend worrying about your first impression before you wind up ruining that by trying too hard to make it a good one. Because everyone is raised by different sets of standards. They grow up in neighborhoods where they don’t like the people on the other side of the streets. They’re told that someone who prays to Mecca is a terrorist, that someone who is black is good at basketball, that anyone who wears glasses is a geek, and so even if they grow out of those preconceived notions, there is always going to be that level of prejudice somewhere in the back of their heads.

So if I write a story that includes a male and a female protagonist, a lot of people are going to automatically assume that those two characters will hook up.

It never ceases to amaze me how people who tell you you’re entire life that there is a difference between fantasy and reality, cannot recognize the distinction a fictional character and the real life counterparts.

Christina Applegate did not take an acting job for many years after Married with Children, because fans could not desperate the actress from the ditzy, bubble headed, stereotypical blond she portrayed on that series. It damaged her self-esteem because people assumed that she was like that in real life and treated her accordingly.

Similarly, I wonder how the people of Bristol felt when Being Human portrayed them as easily led, and easily provoked into a borderline lynch mob at the tiniest accusation that their neighbors might be sex offenders.

In the episode in question, Mitchell, a vampire, accidentally loans the wrong DVD to a local boy who is twelve years old. The boy, being the curious sort, watches the DVD which is a vampire snuff film that was sent to Mitchell in an attempt to lure him back to his true nature, as it were, and is caught by his mother. She’s a bit to drink the night before, so her brain is still stuck in primitive survival mode, so rather than calmly ask Mitchell for an explanation, she hurls her accusations against him which are then overheard by the neighbors.

Within days, the neighbors are throwing trash, bodily fluids, bricks, and other fun things at our trio of supernatural housemates. The underlying theme is the nature of mob mentality and how people can’t shake an idea about something once it’s planted into their heads. What must people think of George, the werewolf, who goes out once a month and comes back to the house in clothes that barely fit him? Never mind that the original owner’s girlfriend died under circumstances yet unrevealed to the public, within that very house. So I imagine quite a few rumors were going around by then, in hushed whispers. But it’s the fact that Mitchell made such a great effort to be a friendly neighbor and a strong presence within the community that makes it especially jarring when the whole town turns violent against them, over the accusations of one hungover mother.

I’m not saying that mobs don’t form every day in the modern era. To go into greater detail, I’d have to move this post over to my other blog. But it actually ties in really well with my own personal concerns over how readers will perceive me as a writer.

When I set a story in, or around, the town I grew up in and portray the citizens as easily led, mindless automatons, eventually someone’s to cotton to the true feelings of vitriol that are heavily laced within the words. Is it wise to provoke such hostility? Maybe not. But I’m far from the only author to have done things that will, whether intentional or not, upset his readers. I only hope that my readers will recognize these stories as being the product of my imagination, as well as an attempt to exercise some demons that have long since had a home in said imagination as a result of my real life experiences in a town that makes the fictionally portrayed Bristol of Being Human seem downright civilized.

A Tense Post

Everyone makes this mistake. Everyone. Especially in the first draft.

You’re writing in the first person and suddenly you make the switch to third person. There’s no narrative reason for this, it’s just a simple mistake. Or is it?

Sometimes Nathanielle writes a story in the first person. And in the first draft, he’ll catch himself changing tenses for no apparent reason and that’s when I go back over the story and make the necessary changes. It can also be helpful if someone highlights this during a beta or proofread because we all miss things, even if you’re like me and you edit as you go.

But can there be a legitimate narrative reason for changing tenses? In a story I’m currently working on, the tense is defined as third person present tense.

Nathanielle attempts to demonstrate present tense in the third person. Hands fly across the keyboard as Donnie Iris drowns out the ambient noise of the library. But in order to demonstrate an acceptable deviation from this tense, within the story, he remembers the first day he began the blog Confessions of Cart Jockey.

He had been an employee at Target for a while before that. At first the job was fun and it seemed as though he had earned the respect of his coworkers, but as time went on that became less apparent. In addition to the sometimes rowdy customers, Nathanielle also had to endure the disrespectful nature of the other employees, whom he would find it in him to tolerate if they would only put the same level of commitment into their jobs as he put into his, at least while on the clock.

Nathanielle returns to the third person, present tense to finish the blog post. He hopes he has given the reader a fair idea of when it is acceptable to change tenses.

That doesn’t mean you can just change tenses all willynilly. Like any rule of writing, you need to know it and follow it before you can know how to break it. And even the most experienced writers will read your first draft and call your attention to the changes in tense, just so you are aware they noticed, and they will probably think you’ve made a mistake.

That’s fine. Nathanielle reminds you that you should take all advice with a grain of salt.

The Victimless Crime ~ Originally Written For Dialogue Thursday

“Thank you for coming.”

Stewart could already tell this was going to be unpleasant just from the tone and the disarming smile that was meant to be non-threatening. He followed Wilkins into the kitchen where he saw Errol, sitting at the head of the table, shaking his head and fixing Stewart with a frown of disapproval.

“What’s this about?” He asked.

“Just sit down,” Wilkins said. “You’re not in any trouble.”

Oh great. Wilkins was trying to be the “good cop”. Well if he wanted Errol to be the bad cop, it might help if his friend didn’t look like the final exam for a How to Draw Manga annex course taught by Botticelli.

He took a seat, hoping this would be quick. Wilkins sat across from him.

“I’ll get right to it. We’ve been to a couple of websites. Don’t roll your eyes, Stewart. We saw our property all over the web. Why is that?”

Stewart shrugged.

“I don’t know, why do you assume I had anything to do with it?”

“Because your user name is the same on every file sharing site!” Errol pounded his fist on the table. It looked more pouting than intimidating. Stewart tried to hold back a derisive snort, unsuccessfully.

Wilkins put up his hand, “Look, Stewart that was our snuff film, okay. We’re not making any money off of that. Every time it circulates, we don’t get compensated for all of our hard work. Errol here held the camera, I had to lure that girl into the basement.”

“Yeah and I cut the film together,” Stewart pointed out. “I deserve to get a little exposure for my work, too.”

“Exposure is the last thing we need,” Errol snapped. “Do you want to wind up in prison?”

“Well, no, but-”

“So we’re clear on this,” Wilkins said. “You take the videos off of the file sharing sites and you consult us before distributing our well-crafted snuff films. I mean it Stewart, piracy is not a victimless crime.”

In The Words of River Song… “Spoilers.”

Here it is. The only Doctor Who fan fiction that I will ever write. Enjoy.

Applied Pressure

By

Nathanielle Sean Crawford

The Usual Disclaimers Apply

The Concept of Gallifrey, Time Lords, Doctor Who and other such ideas contained herein are the properties of their original creators. Some of the characters are my own idea though, and this story is not written with the intent to profit financially in anyway, except in currency of good humor.

**********************************************************************

In the southern hemisphere of the planet Gallifrey, in the city of Talentless Hacks, a man and a woman stood in the room of their eldest son, lamenting his new found independence.

“Our son is a man now,” said the father, a Time Lord answering to the name of The Mayor.

The mother ran her hands along the curvature of the headboard, on the bed where her boy once lay his head. She sighed.

“The house won’t be the same without his laughter and his music.”

“Hmm. Yes, his music.”

A servant rushed into the room, sweat dampening his brow as he cried out The Mayor’s attention.

“My Lord, your son, he has taken some of the appliances from… down stairs.”

The Mayor’s eyes widened. His complete shock was lost on his wife, who was simply confused at the information.

“Down stairs?” she regarded him quizzically.

“Yes,” The Mayor said with a sigh. “My, ah, man cave.”

They followed the servant down the stairs, into a room that existed deep beneath the house at the center of the city of Talentless Hacks. A vast chamber spread out before them.

“What has he taken?” The Mayor’s voice betrayed his fear of the answer.

The servant led the pair to the center of the room, where a large couch sat in front of a movie theater sized screen. The Mayor avoided his wife’s scrutiny as the servant pointed to an empty counter.

“Oh no,” The Mayor gasped.

“What is it?” The wife asked, curtly.

“The Forbidden Appliance.” Off her look, The Mayor explained, “It was mass produced for the citizens of Gallifrey and then taken off of the market when it developed a conscience. Could you use an appliance, knowing it could look upon you in judgment?”

Meanwhile, clear across the City, in an apartment building occupied by The Musician, two young men were lounging about in front of the television.

“Did you hear,” The roommate said. “The Doctor is back.”

“Bummer,” The Musician replied, strumming his guitar. “I thought he would keep running.”

“Yeah, well, he’s back now. And he threw the president and the High Council off the planet.”

The Musician punched the air.

“Fight the machine.”

BING!

The Musician put his guitar aside and crossed the tiny apartment floor, to the  appliance on the counter by the stove. He popped open the door and pulled out a plate of pizza rolls. Leaning against the counter with her arms crossed, a woman stared incredulously and shook her head.

“Are you really going to eat that?”

“Hey!” The Musician pointed demonstratively at the woman. “You’re my microwave, not my dietitian.”

Come Lately Reviews: Breakfast At Tiffany’s

John and I were going through our videos last night, deciding on what to watch. As I rifled through the DVD’s, I said, “What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”

“I think I remember the film.”

“Well, that’s the one we’ve got.”

Later, as I write this review, I’m recalling some of the finer details. But, as I recall, I think we both kind of liked it.

This is the first film based on the works of Truman Capote that I have knowingly watched. It’s billed as a comedy, but it’s what I think of as a realistic comedy. It’s a story full of naturally occurring humor that balances out against the moments of drama and tragedy. Audrey Hepburn clearly showed her chops her in the way she portrayed a wild child who goes from place to place and fights the world’s attempts to restrain her at every turn. George Peppard perfectly compliments her and his character’s story is as realistic and touching to watch.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of those movies that I’ve heard about all my life. Like many people my age, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought the song by Deep Blue Something was in the soundtrack, but like the song, the movie has little to do with Breakfast or Tiffany. In fact, Tiffany and Co. plays a very minor role in the film, but is no more or less a character than New York City in 1960, and the rest of the human cast.