Saturday, August 12, 2017

My Life's Work

After much thought, I've decided to nix the individual videos-for-download concept. Sales have proven too poor to bother with (1) learning how to set it up and (2) maintaining it. But also, I've accidentally discovered a brand new marketing gimmick: my entire life's work (to this point at least) as a single, stand-alone product. One USB stick, an entire career's worth of chase video. To my knowledge, nobody has ever done that before. Unlike other chasers who have done single DVD "career" spanning highlights that cover several years, my USB set is every actual video I've ever done. It's by far the best value on the chaser highlights market, but what I like best is that it's unique. I've finally found my selling niche. It's easy, it's cheap, and it's the first book of my chasing career. I'm all caught up, all current. Now it's all about starting that next novel.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

2017/Noob Thoughts (I Get It Now)

In recent years I've noticed something about myself. I seem to have changed my "world view" on people and personalities. For most of my life, as most people do, I always assumed a person was the way they are (how they behave/perceive/value) based on how they chose to be. Basically, they know right from wrong and act accordingly in any situation, based on instinctual or learned processes such as ethics, morals, peer pressure, or even guilt. In other words, if you're standing around and see some guy who's loud, boisterous, and clearly doesn't care about how it affects people around him, you'd point at the fellow and say "that guy's an asshole." But what you'd mean is "that guy is choosing to be an asshole, because he' asshole."

But lately I've changed my thinking on this. I look around and see so much bad or negative from people, just on a day to day basis, it makes me wonder if it's simply DNA and not a conscious choice. I mean, how can so many people who know right from wrong, good from bad, or even polite from rude, choose to be such pricks? I think perhaps they don't choose at all. Maybe it's just who they are. The question is, why are they like that? My not-so-humble opinion? I think it's largely generational/sign of the times. (You could also generalize this opinion/philosophy by just shaking your head and saying "they just don't know any better.")

This brings me to storm chasers. More to the point, today's storm chasers. It's no secret that I've had an issue with many newer chasers for several years, although most of said newer chasers have tragically misunderstood the reason why. The prototypical, stock reaction has always been "he's just jealous," which makes no sense when you think about it because the majority of the time (we're talking around 95%) my trophy wall smothers theirs. But that's not the point. The point is, the reason I have a beef is because they lack appreciation for what they see, which is a direct side effect of Entitlement. Ah, now we're getting to the root of the problem.

In the past I've often referenced this entitlement mindset by saying newbies walk up to the plate and point to the wall, a move in baseball that signals where the batter intends to knock his home run. It's simultaneously arrogant, disrespectful (of the craft, not seasoned chasers - we ain't snowflakes), and shows the glaringly-obvious entitlement mindset (I'm not gonna try to hit the ball, I am gonna hit the ball.) The lack of acknowledgement of potential failure is a key sign of the entitlement mindset....which is probably why so many young people chase now. It's fucking easy.

Now take the 2017 season to date. I don't know that I've ever heard so much grumbling and rumbling over a "lost" year in my entire career. Not even in 2006 (which was a dreadfully bad chase year) did I hear so much bellyaching and whining as I have in 2017. It's no coincidence that most of today's entitlement generation chasers weren't chasing yet back then. If they had, there would have been suicides by now. These little bastards don't even know what bad is. What is bad you might be asking? Well, the best way for me to explain it in terms a millennial would understand is: Bad is something no app can fix. Chilling isn't it?

First off, 2017 hasn't been that bad, in fact I'd say it's been average leaning towards the good side of the fence. This is an opinion from a person who chased before there was mobile data, who's experienced genuinely bad chase years and appreciates all tornadoes because the process is amazing to witness, so my definition of bad is far worse than that of someone who started chasing in 2013. Climatology is not the result of personal choices, mistakes, or results, so the first group of whiners who blame their bad results on the weather pattern (instead of their bad decisions) can step aside, remain quite, and learn something here.

For the next group, refer to the first sentence of the previous paragraph. I know you all have been spoiled to death in recent years, but you have to be realistic. Not every year is going to be full of photogenic tornadoes, easy to figure out setups, or perfectly-timed-with-your-schedule events. Much like the ones who simply fucked 2017 up and blame the weather, you guys need to get over the fact the weather hasn't jibed with you personally schedule-wise or expectation-wise. Expectations are through the roof because all of you are professional photographers now, which means you've subscribed to an existence of constant, futile pursuit of perfection and never being satisfied. Travelers who schedule ahead of time, I get it. I understand. But your personal disappointment doesn't take any of the shine off of 2017. It's had some spectacular days.

But I digress...

I find myself understanding this Entitlement Generation more and more as I get older. No longer do I believe they are spoiled, bratty, pissy individuals who just choose to be that way. No, I honestly believe they just are that way, a product of an environment where everything in life is a button push, a mouse click, a download or an app away. An environment where since birth all they've been told is they can be anything they want, do anything they want, because they exist. A world where participation is as awarded as winning, where hurt feelings take precedence over competition, fairness, and rules. A place where everything they don't deserve should never happen, and everything they believe they deserve should. But that world doesn't exist....and bless their hearts, they just don't know any better.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Back in the Saddle

The funny thing about a drought is, when you're in one, even if you stay stoic and keep a "we'll just keep trying" attitude, in the back of your mind you're constantly wondering "when will this thing end?" But the moment you come out of one, it's like you were never in it to begin with. Right back to business. Not arrogance, just expectation. I expect to see tornadoes, and when we don't, I am more perplexed by why we haven't than I am worried if we ever will again.

This past week and a half has been a very busy and exciting one, not to mention satisfying. The tornadoes are coming once again, in the way they historically always have for me: not in huge numbers, but consistently. It's awesome to be back in the groove of having tornadic success. All it ever really takes is some luck, and the previous three years we just didn't have much. So far in 2017, that's changed, as we're back to having the type of seasons we're used to having.

The drought ended May 10 in extreme SW OK near Davidson, with a brief dust whirl tornado. We observed another brief tornado in the extreme eastern Texas panhandle on May 16, but this one had a condensation funnel, and actually ended in spectacular, fully-condensed pencil/rope fashion. However I was too involved with my phone in report at the time, and allowed the tornado to move out of frame to the right during the rope phase. SMDH. The finale of our hot streak came May 18, with a pair of large, significant tornadoes near Chester/Cedardale, OK. The second of these two will go down as one of the best I have ever seen, even if the contrast was less-than-stellar from our location. The sculpted updraft/RFD region was tremendous, and reminded me very much of the May 3, 1999 F5 tornado's RFD structure.

Three of these four tornadoes were captured outside, on tripods, the type shot I am always aiming for. So on top of the pure experiences, the videos turned out pretty much like I wanted as well. It's a nice, calm, steady-flow type of satisfaction/happiness this brings me, and keeps me feeling alive. Kinda like an IV drip, subtle but there, maintaining pure tornadic bliss within the very fiber of my being. The best drug the Universe has to offer me. I'd been without it for quite some time, and had learned how to cope fairly well (even if it was only on the outside). But this latest fix is magical, just constant joy that resonates with every passing moment, every thought, every memory. It is so damn sweet to be back to being who I am, just an average working class schmuck who lives and breathes to chase and document tornadoes....and does it successfully.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Thanks to the help of some awesome friends, the ongoing video "revamp" project continues forward. Six of my seven video releases (formally on DVD) have been successfully redone and are now digitized, ready for flash drive/instant download. The remaining video is complete save for the final chapter, a 2003 event that I had never digitized and hence, had not been able to even watch for almost a decade. My friend Blake Naftel, who is a seasoned professional in the video/radio/news world, has graciously helped me with this problem, digitally formatting my dinosaur VHSc masters. Once they arrive in Tejas, I'll be able to complete the final video. Mickey Ptak, my long time partner in crime, has reached out to me and offered his assistance in setting up my videos for instant download purchasing on my website. With it being the meat of the Spring storm season and him having a big vacation coming up in early May, we have scheduled that project to begin sometime during the Summer. And Tim Patterson, web developer guru, has been hooking me up with great hosting service to make it all live. I'm very fortunate in my friends, and I'm very thankful.

So, things over at Passion Twist are coming together steadily. It's been nice to get the website back to current and (as much as can be now) relevant once again. If you've browsed my site lately, you might've noticed the long, detailed chase summaries are gone. I felt bad nixing them because a lot of people over the years have expressed how much they enjoy them, but the reality is it was still not enough people to justify the time and effort involved in creating those summary pages. I dreaded doing them towards the end, something I had once gotten great pleasure from. I've always said, I appreciate it and am flattered whenever anyone compliments me on my work, but at the end of the day, everything I do is for me. And writing summaries just isn't in the cards anymore.

The summaries have been replaced by simple video captures of each tornado, linked inside that day's statistical display. It's easy to understand and maintain, and takes a fraction of the time. I've found that making it easier to keep my website/blog current makes it more likely I'll keep it current. I've though about adding other pages based around stats, but have yet to convince myself it's really worth the time. I doubt most people would be interested, and I kind of like some things remaining a mystery. Another thing I've been strongly considering getting rid of is my "links" page. Stand-alone websites are a bit of a novelty these days, and the fact is many chasers simply don't have them any longer. Even many chasers who are still active have either let them go to the cyber graveyard or simply no longer update them. I've had to trim my links page down considerably the past few years because of so many dead or broken links. Times change.

Speaking of times changing, I'm planning an upgrade to HD next year. But that's another blog.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bye bye DVDs

After over a decade of peddling those cumbersome, bulky DVDs, I've finally decided to dump the format and move forward into the 21st century. Not only will this move benefit both myself and the customer (easier for me to archive footage and create new videos in the future, plus a much lower sale price), it also allows me to end the nightmare of incorrectly used apostrophes. It has never, is not, nor will ever be "DVD's." The correct written form is "DVDs." Unless it's the highly-unlikely scenario of describing something about a DVD i.e., "the DVD's menu was both creative and easy to use..." an apostrophe is not needed. Plural does not automatically translate to possessive. They teach you that in 5th grade.

The new flash drive format I'll be implementing is stupid simple, cheap to produce, and takes away the stress of having to keep up with master tapes. Now I just have a bunch little plastic & metal sticks that, as long as you don't smash it with a hammer or static shock fry it, will last forever. That alone is a win, and makes the endeavor of redoing almost twenty years' worth of footage all over again completely worth it. I'm also planning (hoping) to offer instant downloads as well, although I will have to self-educate myself on the process, which could mean anywhere from a few months to never as far as making that a reality. I will of course post any updates to this situation.

But for now, it's chase season 2017, and I'm fully-focused on getting new tornadoes and videos.