The Prodigal Altar Boy

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blog Improvement Plan Part 7 - Peer review of blog as Review of My Life

Peer review of blog as Review of My Life
Processing the peer reviews of the blog was an opportunity to reflect on the documentary’s progress, especially for the past year.  Reviewers wanted to see more of my personality come through.  The past year was a period of growth.  Leading the worship team, I saw the entire team grow, and I grew musically as well as spiritually. I saw my focus on music caused other gifts to lie fallow.  “Worship musician” presents an incomplete picture of me as a person, and pigeonholes the gifts I bring to ministry.

I was glad to serve as worship leader and it was a great experience.  Much like the first incarnation of the blog, however, it did not allow much of my personality to come through.  I think the documentary, in addition to honoring TQ’s lifelong ministry, can be an opportunity to minister with all my gifts and extend the reach of a TQ’s ministry.  Every shoot has been a peak experience and revealed an unexpected moment with a message only for me, saying, “This is what you need to be doing.”

So what does this all mean?  It means I stepped down from the worship team.  It means I will spend more time finishing the documentary.  I have 20+ hours of footage “in the can” and it will take another 30 to be ready for a good edit.  There is also the legal work (releases, licenses, copyright clearance, etc.), as well as scoring, sweetening and other post-production chores.  The rest of the long haul is equally labor-intensive, including marketing, film festivals and distribution.

Here's another clip of TQ.  He talks about butterflies as the symbol of the resurrection.  Thanks for tuning in. 

Next:  The way ahead for the TQ Project

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 6)

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 6)

Okay, let’s wrap this up.  Here is the section on the blog’s content.

The instructions for the final paper in the capstone course were:
Submit a two- to three-page paper providing a brief rationale of the following components used in the creation and development of your Blog:

Purpose (part 1)
Purpose (part 2)
Audience (part 1)
Audience (part 2)

This post wraps up the paper with a discussion of content, the conclusion and the references for the paper.  The paper in its entirety can be found here.  
The advantage of a blog based on a movie in production is an abundance of content.  Location photos, the film’s thesis, raw footage, audio clips and correspondence from interview subjects are all fair game for blog content.  The availability of content relates to Anderson’s Long Tail model of the new economy, which focuses on abundance and the implications of that abundance on the behavior of consumers.  The Long Tail model of web relevance characterizes search engines as time-agnostic, so over time, what comes to the top of search engine lists is not the newest, but the best, based on the number of links and traffic to a particular page (Anderson, 2008, pp. 142-144).  Using the Long Tail model, the content from the blog, if it is relevant, can enjoy a longer life on the web, which feeds into the marketing goals of the blog and the movie.
    Abundance of content dovetails with the Rowse and Garrett’s opinion on granular posts since not only can I serialize long posts,  I can enhance each post with examples from any of the documentary media related to the subject.  In revisiting the Nat Turner topic, I can use transmedia input such as Google Maps to show TQ’s route from Tidewater to Southampton County, footage from TQ’s interview, newspaper pictures and articles on the Easter liturgy.
Augmenting the narrative and visual content of the posts and video/graphics, additional content will relate to Calvin Thomas, the person, with running lists, such as “Guilty Pleasures,” where I will list some of my “toys,” along with a short commentary about them.  “Blast from the Past,” another sub-section of the blog, will feature pictures and short stories chronicling how I got to where I am.  Lists that are more topical will be “Cal’s To-Do” list, an accountability tool showing scans of “to-do” lists I used to finish certain aspects of production.

The individual elements of design, content and audience ultimately must support the primary purpose of the blog.  The milestone goals of the blog, tied to the milestones of production, will evolve over the course of the documentary, but point to the overarching goal of attracting supporters for the documentary and calling them to action.  Central to getting others to spread the word about TQ is connecting the individual stories in each parish, of each person, to the rest of the lives TQ touched.  While the connectivity of the internet and blogs are not a single solution, trading on the strength of the web to make the connections makes the work easier.

Works Cited

Anderson, C. (2008). The Long Tail - Longer - why the future of business is selling less of more. Ney York City: Hyperion.
Biskupic, J. (2009). American Original The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia . New York city: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Bosko, M. S. (2003). The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook - promote, distribute & sell your film or video. Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions.
Faidman, D., & Levelle, T. (2008). Producing With Passion. Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions.
Garfield, S. (2010). Get Seen - online video secrets to building your business. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Reiss, J. (2010). Think Outside The Box Office - the ultimate guide to film distribution in the digital era. Hybrid Cinema Publishing.
Rowse, D., & Garrett, C. (2008). Pro blogger - secrets for blogging your way to a a six-figure income. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Ruehlmann, B. (2009, March 22). Controversial Priest's Papers Enter Eclectic Collection. The Virginian Pilot .

Next: Prodigal Altar Boy blog as an analogy for my life.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 5)

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 5)

Here is the second half of the blog’s purpose.

The instructions for the final paper in the capstone course were:

Submit a two- to three-page paper providing a brief rationale of the following components used in the creation and development of your Blog:

Purpose (part 1)
Audience (part 1)
Audience (part 2)

 Here are the comments from students in the class (COM 480):

“The second blog I viewed was Calvins.  Calvin your blog is interesting also.  I liked how you credited all of your sources.  I also liked how you added graphs to support your ideas.  I did feel that your blog did not have a personal, or fun, touch to it.  I know this is suppose to be a professional blog, but I think that you can make it a bit more interesting.  I think that you will lose people if they are just reading facts and not having a little entertainment to keep the readers interest.  Remember this is just my opinion.  It was still a good blog and very informative.”
Morgan Johnson

I'm not a blog expert, but I think your blog should reflect a bit of your personality into it. Bring your material to life by adding color. I do like the graphs you used in your post about media technologies. I would also suggest maybe keeping your post short and concise to the subject matter. Even when I read blogs outside of this class, I want something to the point. Overall, I think you are off to a great start.”
Kritina Clairborne

The looping of the pictures is an excellent touch to your site.  Your text in your blogs seem to run together.  Maybe switch the colors text per each blog.  This will help with transition between each blog post.  Given the grey/black color scheme.  You may want to shorten up your reference block.  As it takes up a good majority of your page. ”
Terrence Matthews

Instructor Comments on the blog improvement plan:
Once again, you have done excellent work.  Keep it up.  I'll be hearing from you.
Mr. Sexton”

Purpose (part 2 of 2)
           Rather than appeal to a wide audience, I will take Emmy Award-winning blogger Felicia Day’s advice and aim the blog’s content toward a niche audience and use the strength of the Web to tell my story (Garfield, 2010, pp. 261-263).  Although each phase of production will have slightly different audience (e.g. the technically inclined will be more interested in the equipment and application during production, while educators might be more interested in how each subject’s interview supports the film's thesis), the overarching purpose of the blog is to attract supporters for the documentary.
           After attracting supporters, the blog will call them to action (Bosko, 2003, p. 313).  Short- term goals for action include reading about the film, reading about me, watching the clips on the blog and looking at the related slide shows.  Short-term goals feed into the larger goals of increasing interest in the film, spreading word of mouth about the film and ultimately, financial support through sponsoring/attending a screening, participating in fundraising, purchasing a copy of the film, or offering to distribute the documentary.  Faidman and Levelle point out, “People fund people, not ideas,” so the larger goal of the blog is to assure the niche that Calvin Thomas has the drive and integrity to bring the documentary to the finish line and any resources they commit will be well invested (Faidman & Levelle, 2008, p. 69).

Next up: Content and the conclusion.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 4 - Purpose)

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 4)
Purpose (1 of 2)

A reader (actually probably the only reader) asked what the purpose of the Prodigal Altar Boy blog.  The instructions for the final paper in the capstone course were:

Submit a two- to three-page paper providing a brief rationale of the following components used in the creation and development of your Blog:

That brings us to purpose.  The excerpts from the paper address the class assignment, which was to take peer and instructor comments on my blog and outline changes I will make based on the comments.  The paper stands on its own.  I took all the comments to heart and made changes based on the comments.  When I wrap up this series, I will give you the comments verbatim as well as the instructor’s comments on the paper and the final grade.  

The blog is a metaphor, and I did not realize that until the class was over.  By putting my stamp on the blog, the observations from my classmates (thank you all) became observations on my life, and the changes for the blog imply similar changes for my life.  At the end of the series, I will talk about some of those changes.

The Prodigal Altar Boy blog is part of a multi-faceted marketing approach for my documentary about Father Thomas J. Quinlan (“TQ”).  The flexibility of the web log format allows the blog’s focus to change with the production milestones of the film.  The film is currently in principal photography, which means I have begun filming the basic elements of the movie.  The blog will focus on that portion of production, covering completed locations shoots, the background of the subjects, equipment used, and if possible, short clips from the shoots.
           At the end of principal photography, the film moves into post-production and the blog will emphasize the editing process and other elements of post-production, to include scoring, color correction, sound sweetening and titles.  Rough cuts, music samples and examples of edited footage with various music beds will be blog content for this phase of production.
           The screening/distribution phase of the documentary is a marketing push to raise awareness of the film with potential screening venues as well as distributors.  While this phase has more of a marketing bent, in reality, the subtext of the blog from inception, is marketing to attract the niche of people interested in the film from the standpoints of subject matter, film festival potential, educational potential and revenue through distribution.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 3 )

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 3)
Audience (continued)

Here is the task from the Capstone Class:  

Submit a two- to three-page paper providing a brief rationale of the following components used in the creation and development of your Blog:
    • Purpose
    • Design
    • Content
    • Audience
This is the second part of the Audience plan for the blog:

Audience (continued)

Geographically, while the Hampton Roads area represents a contiguous audience landscape, the Richmond (home to the Diocese) as well as the northern Virginia areas are additional geographic audiences to consider.  TQ’s former parish in Alexandria still exists and his exploits there still resonate.  In the recent biography of Chief Justice Antonin Scalia, the biographer relates Scalia family lore of attending a northern Virginia church where the priest drove a Volkswagen down the aisle during a Palm Sunday service (Biskupic, 2009, p. 186).  That priest was TQ, and the persistence of that story reinforces the importance of northern Virginia for audience potential.  Norfolk, Virginia plays a geographic role given the amount of time spent and media coverage TQ garnered while there.  From an educational/research standpoint, TQ’s donation of 20+ boxes of documents related to his career as a rogue priest to the Norfolk Main Library (Ruehlmann, 2009) creates a connection with the city that could promote the film to a larger audience.  Posting archival documents to the blog and linking to the library is one way to exploit that connection.  TQ’s connection to Tidewater media also bears consideration.  I will be licensing archival photographs and stories from Norfolk media, so the use of those pictures on the blog can generate links to that media and serve as the basis for local interest stories.
Finally, from an industry approach, any media concerning documentary filmmaking, especially independent filmmakers, is a potential audience.  People who enjoy documentary films are another audience to include, as well as distributors of documentary films, to include the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).
Just as I have posted links to TQ’s Wikipedia page as well as one of his former parishes, I will add links to as many of the potential audience websites I deem fit.  I will use keywords and blog labels related to the target audience to enhance search engine performance.  In instances where I have direct contacts, email, phone calls and even personal visits will spread the word of the film, always directing them to the blog and websites related to the film.    I will make sure the web address of the blog appears in all marketing materials and will add that address to the end of my personal emails.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 2 - Audience)

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 2)

Here is the task from the Capstone Class
Submit a two- to three-page paper providing a brief rationale of the following components used in the creation and development of your Blog:
    • Purpose
    • Design
    • Content
    • Audience

Part two of the series covers audience.  “Audience” forced me to define and refine the blog, as well as the movie’s target audience.  You always think you know the audience you are aiming for, and this in-depth academic excursion forced a reevaluation.  While my original target choices are intact, the exercise revealed important new segments of those audiences and sparked ideas on ways to reach them.

I define The Prodigal Altar Boy blog audience as “niches within niches”.  From a topical approach, under the general heading of “Catholic,” the audience includes disaffected Catholics, given many of the Roman Catholic Church’s shortcomings highlighted by TQ are pivotal reasons “lapsed” Catholics cite as reasons for leaving the Church.  TQ’s vast doctrinal knowledge, which backs up his “radical” pronouncements and shock liturgy, is a valuable resource for Catholic religious educators, as TQ’s presentation of religious history can take lay people behind the stock catechism answers.  A geographical spin on the topical approach brings the Diocese of Richmond and its media arm into the audience fold.  Since all of TQ’s battles against church hierarchy outlined in the film begin and end with the Diocese of Richmond, past and present leadership are logical audience members.  I used covers from the Diocese’s publication, “The Catholic Virginian,” as graphics for at least two posts.
Using the relational approach, TQ’s friends, colleagues and contemporaries comprise a large audience constituency.  Along with members of parishes where TQ was Pastor, the staff and lay leadership of those church communities are an additional potential audience pool.  With the bulk of interviews coming from former parishioners, the desire to see the story of their parish, within the context of TQ’s story can be a large audience draw.  Former parishes also form a loose network across Virginia with built-in infrastructure to support screenings of the final product.  Finally, TQ’s adversaries form an unlikely, but potent audience pool.  If news of the movie inspires a fraction of the op-ed ink his exploits sparked, the publicity can only help marketing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blog Improvement Plan (Part 1)
Well, I’m at the end of the Capstone Course and the final assignment is to:  
Submit a two- to three-page paper providing a brief rationale of the following components used in the creation and development of your Blog:
    • Purpose
    • Design
    • Content
    • Audience

I’ll break the paper down into 4-5 posts, starting with the design.  The design portion was interesting because we had peer reviews of our blogs.  The comments were helpful, and I tried to incorporate as many as I could.  An issue, as you’ll read, came up in the peer review suggestion to widen the appeal of the blog’s design contrasted against the professional advice to increase blog effectiveness by going for the niche.  I’ll provide all of the references in the last installment.  Enjoy.

I chose the grey 3D block background and black text boxes to evoke a formal, serious look for the blog.  While that impression serves as a backdrop for the content, which will range from serious, when discussing the communication theory behind TQ’s exploits, to the ridiculous when exploring those tactics, I recognize peer review of the blog’s need for color and personality.  Since the reviews tell me I achieved my impression goals for the blog, the next step is to use enough color to push that background into the background and let the colors of widgets and posts move the content to the forefront.  I have already added a background picture to the title banner as well as additional pictures to the “Places and Spaces” slideshow.
Post length was another common issue in the peer review. Therefore, in addition to following Rowse and Garrett’s advice to increase page ranking and granularity by breaking long posts into series (Rowse & Garrett, 2008, pp. 87-92), I will break down the video on the blog into what Reiss calls “mobisodes,” episodes designed for web-enabled smartphones, releasing one episode per week (Reiss, 2010, pp. 244-247).
Besides color choices and post length, an additional peer comment was a desire to see more of my personality in the blog.  This is a very astute observation, especially given my goals in light of Faidman and Levelle’s observation that people fund people, as opposed to ideas.  Putting more of my personality into the blog is a way for the audience to get to know me and taking a cue from my review of peer blogs, I will add post-relevant polls to future postings.  I posted additional pictures to both the “Spaces and Places” and “Tools of the Trade” slideshow widgets.  “Spaces and Places” ties to personality in that it shows photographs of the places I have been.  As production continues, more of the pictures will relate to locations in the documentary.  The “Tools of the Trade” slideshow needs captions, which I will add with Picasa, to give context to the equipment displayed in those pictures.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tales From The Crypt - The Prodigal Altar Boy Recalls his Berlin Daze

The "Pope's Revenge"


Tempelhof Central Airport (TCA)
Every Air Force person assigned to Berlin during the Cold War knows Tempelhof Central Airport or “TCA”. This eagle-shaped airport was headquarters for all U.S. Air Force operation in Berlin, holding all of the administrative offices as well as the chow hall and barracks for single Air Force personnel. Offices for the host and tenant Air Force units clustered in the middle of the five-kilometer structure on the ground and upper floors, with the upper floors of the “wings” of the eagle housing recreation areas (bowling alley, gym, library, etc,) and the barracks.

The Americans rebuilt TCA after WWII and concentrated restoration efforts on the ground and upper floors of the central buildings and hangar areas that comprised the wings of the stylized eagle. Areas below ground, some heavily damaged during the final days of the Reich, were the last renovated, and “renovation” meant ensuring structural integrity and only remodeling o provide temporary space. As offices abandoned the lower floors for newer renovated space on the upper floors, much of those empty spaces went unoccupied; a labyrinth of empty offices connected by a long hallway with steel bulkheads every few hundred feet.

Musicians, like nature, abhor a vacuum. Like pigs root out truffles, musicians with more volume than talent will find the remote areas of their environment. Niches where they can set up drums, cart bass amplifiers and wheel in stacks emblazoned with “Marshall,” “Vox,” “Yamaha” and play “Whole Lotta Love,” “Wild Thing” and “Hey Joe” as loud as they want until some senior NCO coming off the swing shift barges in and tells them to keep it down.

 While no one will ever know all of the “jam spots” at TCA, one of the most famous ones was an appliance storage area sandwiched in between the bowling alley (one floor above) and the racquetball court (one floor below). While I was there, an SP (Security Policeman) from the host unit with a Les Paul laid claim to that spot. Someone had set up a drum kit and a community bass amp that could make the derelict washers and dryers rattle and inch cautiously away when things got rocking.

My friend, drummer Mike Paine, and I discovered an abandoned indoor firing range on one of the upper floors. The drum kit was a cast off from an Army recreation center had rivets in one of the cymbals. The amplifier, also an Army reject, was ancient, but nothing a distortion box and a wah pedal couldn’t fix. We never got around to finding a bass player, but I did manage to record some of our “jams” on a portable cassette player. Mike was a great drummer. As for my performance, if I ever achieve any modicum of fame as a musician, those will be the first tapes I destroy.

Keith Garside, Antonio Fargas, Cal Thomas
Another friend, Keith Garside, had a band called TetraFusion. They played at Tempelhof’s Club Silverwings, had been on a local Armed Forces Network television show, and were as big time as you could get and still be in the Air Force. They had the most secluded practice space on TCA, a large abandoned office in the tunnels that they called “The Crypt.” Unless you knew the layout of the tunnels, it was hard to find that space, so an invitation to The Crypt to witness a rehearsal was the hot ticket among the would-be musicians. Note the word “rehearsal,” instead of “jam session.” With gigs and TV appearances, TetraFusion had transcended the awkwardness of the jam phase. They never had to worry about not letting someone sit in with them because this was a rehearsal, not a jam session. They had material to polish, songs to write and careers to work on. An invitation to witness TetraFusion in The Crypt was just that, an invitation to witness; don’t bring your guitar, because you won’t need it; real musicians at work.

If you have watched more than fifteen seconds of any “Behind The Music” you know it’s time for that Ken Burns-style montage of black and white TetraFusion pictures as the narrator pauses and says, “But little did they know.” By the time I was sitting in Club Silverwings, slack jawed, watching TetraFusion play, I’d seen the Beatles break up, the Jackson 5 lose their name to Motown, hot grits send Al Green into ministry and even Wham! was on shaky ground. Bands have been breaking up ever since there were bands. A band is breaking up as you are reading this, and yet when a band breaks up it is always a surprise.

The "Weather Station"
The first inkling I had that TetraFusion was in trouble was when Keith approached me at work and asked me if I know how to play octaves. I had heard of octaves, so I said, “Sure.” I never bothered to ask that if by “octaves,” he meant the bell-like chimes you can make by plucking a string above the 12th, 7th and 5th frets, which I could do, or if he meant playing the same note simultaneously on two different strings, a la’ Wes Montgomery, which I could not.. Over the course of the shift, he told me that the drummer, Pete Dixon, had been born again and his testimony of a life of sin, coupled with some erratic behavior, caused him to lose his security clearance. Les Baxter, the bass player, destroyed TetraFusion’s master tape right in front of Keith. Rather than rebuild that group, Keith decided to start a brand new band. He was holding a jam session in The Crypt for prospects, would I be interested?

Wally Gunther, another SP, talked a lot about the bass he owned and his thundering bass amp. Wally continually lamented his eagerness to play and annoyance his father would not ship his prized gear to Berlin. Since bass players were scarce and few rarely lent out their instruments, his story was plausible enough to escape challenge. As TetraFusion flamed out, Wally’s star rose on self-promotion alone. When initial rumors of the breakup wafted through the jam spots, Wally mused, aloud, that if whatever arose from the ashes of TetraFusion needed a bass player, he would pressure his dad to send the gear, and maybe even send him some cash to speed shipment. When Keith made the rounds of the jam spots to announce the audition session, Wally Gunther did something that shot his stock through the roof.

One thing musicians do more than lying about their ability is accepting other musician’s lies about their ability. It is an unwritten code we follow that lets us add to our reputation, secure in the knowledge we will never be challenged. The corollary of the code is never put yourself in a position where you have to make good on a musical exaggeration unless you can plead extenuating, verifiable circumstances (“I hurt my hand pulling a German woman off the U-Bahn track, here’s the Berliner Morgenpost article”), or you can actually perform at said level.

A few days out from the jam session, Wally Gunther stood the code on its head. Rather than bemoan his dad wouldn’t pack the gear, or surmise even if he did, it would not arrive in time, Wally made the move that galvanized everyone. Wally bought Les Baxter’s bass rig. By the rules of the code, this meant one thing; Wally absolutely had to be the toughest bass player on the face of the earth.

Studio luminary Tommy Tedesco wrote monthly columns in Guitar Player about buying various instruments for session gigs for television shows, movie scores and hit albums. Wally went Tommy Tedesco one better by purchasing a bass rig for an audition. The logic of the code dictated that only someone who knew how to play bass would spend that kind of money for a jam session.

The Crypt was packed the night of jam session. The drummer was warming up on the kit. The guitar players filed in and plugged in their amps. Wally came in with his new bass rig and plugged in. Keith hit the open “E” on his guitar and invited the guitar players (all two of us) to match his “E” and tune up. Normally, the bass player would tune up as well. Wally just stood there, watching everyone else.

All I could think was, “Not only did this guy buy a rig just to jam, he also tunes by ear. Wally must be one of those perfect pitch guys that can hear the color of each note.” Usually, after tuning up, most players like to noodle on their instruments, playing snippets of the riffs they have practiced the most just to let everyone else know how good they are. Wally wasn’t noodling.

I am near panic now because not only does this guy play by ear; he has the discipline of a seasoned studio musician. He’s saving it all for the audition. I knew I should have practiced more. By now, Keith is explaining to the drummer the groove he wants. “Let’s start out easy with a nice slow blues in ‘A,’” Keith tells everyone. The drummer counted off the beat, each crack of the sticks echoing in The Crypt like underwater explosions, on “One,” I looked at the other guitar player. On “Two,” a bead of sweat inched down my forehead. On “Three,” the drummer began a fill that would lead into the downbeat.

We were a third of the way through a 12-bar blues before I realized the off-key tones staggering around the steady beat of the kick drum wasn’t the other guitar player. Keith was not glaring at me, so I knew I wasn’t the blame. The drummer, the other guitar player and I kept going as we watched Keith stride across the room, turn Wally’s bass down and ask, “Man, do you even know how to play?”

Mumbling sheepishly about “Not being used to that kind of bass,” Wally packed up his gear and disappeared down the corridors leading away from The Crypt. I do not remember much of the jam session after that. Keith never formed another group, and Les bought his rig back at a nice price. Keith and I became friends and made many recordings I still enjoy hearing. If I ever make it as a musician, those will be the first tapes I will play.