Cafe Witness

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Chris Brogan did it this morning. It smells like a meme. And it's also an incredibly useful way to clear my head by summing up where I've been and where I'm going.

Three Reasons to Write a Blogography

- It gives readers a snapshot summary of the author's life

- It enables the author to connect the dots of the past and present for self-reflection

- It answers all the questions no one ever thinks to ask

So, without further bullet-pointing, ladies and gentlemen: my Blogography.

(Warning: it is a tad long. Of course, it is a life story...)

The Early Years

I was born and raised in Erie, PA, which makes me half-Canadian by association. I spent most of my time reading, drawing and creating. I made my own activity books based on video games, wrote and drew my own novels and comics, and played endlessly with action figures (including MUSCLE Things, around which I invented an entire self-created storyverse because they didn't come with one of their own -- making them truly the greatest toys ever for a creative mind).

My parents were iconoclasts and insisted I drop out of Catholic high school at the age of 16 because, as they said, "you're going to be an artist anyway, so why not get started now?" Realizing this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to f*ck up my life, I grabbed it.

I spent the better part of 16 and 17 on the road with my dad, who was (and is) a traveling salesman. Together, we saw the country several times over, from Seattle to Atlanta, Boston to Los Angeles, Houston to Chicago and everywhere in-between (or wherever he had an account). During that time, I self-published (under a pseudonym) a black & white comic book that was sold nationally, albeit in painfully small quantitities. I also learned how to drive (mostly on highways), and grew my hair abominably long. (That stopped when I grew weary of being called "ma'am" whenever we drove South...)

The Roaring Pre-Twenties

At 18, I moved home with my grandfather, who was 81. Despite the generation gap, we got along well, and I learned a lot about my family that I doubt I would have otherwise had the opportunity to know. I also discovered a love for video when my high school friends and I spent countless hours creating ever-longer home movies of truly esoteric sketch comedy.

When the rest of my friends moved away to college, my best friend Tom Duska (aka Locobone) and I kept in touch with them using a mysterious new invention called Telnet. This was 1995, and the full extent of my online knowledge involved sneaking into the Penn State Behrend computer lab (Locobone was a student there; I was not) to connect with our friends via the scrolling black-and-white chatroom screen. This activity would eventually occupy nearly my entire waking, non-working existence, as I formed seemingly deep bonds with other wandering souls via blinking cursors and text.

In 1996, I became enamored with our local college radio station, WERG 89.9 FM from Gannon University. The summer DJs became listless around July and one of them, whose show I was a frequent caller into, asked if I'd like to take over one of his weekly shifts. That offer snowballed into a yearlong stint in which Locobone and I became elder statesmen of WERG, helping train their incoming class of freshman communications majors and building the station into the city's #2 radio destination despite neither of us actually going to school there...

Becoming friendly with the freshmen inspired me to reconsider my own education. Unbeknownst to anyone, I secretly completed my GED, "just in case." Continued conversations (and a flare-up with my girlfriend at the time) led me to realize I should go back to school. By chance, I stumbled across a college guide listing for The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I visited the school, sat in on a class and decided to attend. My major? Computer Animation and Multimedia. (Why? Because the admissions reps were pushing it that year.)

The College Years

From 1997-1999, I lived, worked and honed my craft in Pittsburgh. I learned a lot about myself, my worldview and my work ethic, and I developed some incredibly long-lasting friendships. Most importantly, I realized how much can be accomplished when a group of passionate creators work together to push one another to succeed. That atmosphere was the most dynamic I'd ever lived in, and I missed it sorely after graduation.

I spent a few weeks living in Arizona, only to go broke and return home, ready to start over. A week later, my car was totaled (with me in it). This downward spiral of bad luck and questionable planning was assuaged by a job offer from Multimedia Training Systems, Inc. The company creates safety training for the steel industry and needed a video editor. Having taken numerous video editing classes in college (I'd realized midway through that I should have enrolled in that major instead, so I maxed out my electives with video), I was the only qualified applicant. I was hired.

During the 5 years I spent at MTS, I developed a need for a creative outlet apart from the rigors of accident recreations and industrial training. I'd been fiddling with a short film script for years, and when I met a small group of actors, I pitched them on the concept of turning that script into something serialized on the internet. They were interested, and in 2003, Something to Be Desired was launched. Today, it stands as the longest-running (yet mostly undiscovered) episodic web series, with four seasons and well over 100 episodes under our belts.

In 2005, I quit MTS to concentrate on STBD full-time. Although that decision has resulted in traumatic stress to my personal finances, the professional and artistic benefits have been astounding. That year I also had the opportunity to visit London for a month while my girlfriend studied toward her Master's degree. As the first significant travel I'd enjoyed in nearly a decade, it re-awakened my desire to live a more fluid lifestyle.

In 2006, one stray introductory email to then-new media neophyte Chris Brogan resulted in a domino effect for both of us. Thus far, it's led to Chris switching careers and becoming the community ambassador for social media, while I've had the opportunity to meet hundreds of fellow web media creators as we all strive to figure out this new medium together.

Life is exciting. It feels like college all over again. And that's a good thing.

The Next Steps

A week ago, I turned 30. Realizing how far I've come over the past 10 years -- moving to Pittsburgh, obtaining a degree, investing 5 years in a growing company, investing 4 more in an artistic venture, co-organizing PodCamp Pittsburgh -- I realize I have no idea where I'll be at 40. But I'm quite excited to see where the next 10 years lead me. And, thanks to the magic of blogs, Twitter and social media at large, I doubt the trip will be lonely.

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  • I think in another 10 years we will be in the same place...either completely insane or owning some random planet.

    By Blogger patheticboy, at 10:58 AM  

  • In ten years, I'll either be a millionaire many times over or completely broke...possibly both.

    Great post.

    By Anonymous Jim, at 4:07 PM  

  • I think that AiP would consider you a successful graduate. You are doing something original and you have an audience.

    In 10 years I hope to at least have my own office.

    By Blogger Norm, at 8:34 PM  

  • thats good stuff man. I wish mine is as cool as that.

    By Blogger Clintus McGintus, at 10:59 PM  

  • Great post!

    Interesting to read your adventures. I'll do mine at some point - after my life settles down a bit after our move back to the States.

    Nairobi Paul

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:28 AM  

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