Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Persistence of Time

I think about death a lot. Not in a dreading, fearful kind of way (although once in a while), but more of a pensive type of thing. I wonder about all the people who believe in the christian god and all the people who believe nothing, and everyone in between. I wonder which group is right, and what might happen to the group that's wrong (I suppose the answer to that question depends on who is right/wrong). And all I ever garner from these thoughts is "I really don't know."

Maybe getting older manifests itself differently for different people. Maybe there's not always an easily-identifiable template of psychology that one can quantify. Perhaps that's what  a "mid-life crisis" truly represents, that unique state-of-mind induced within each individual as they reach a certain point in life. In my particular case, I'm 41 years old and have no desire to buy a sports car, date a woman half my age, or go base jumping. I don't think I'll ever be the classic, stereotypical mid-life case because I've never been a stereotypical personality. Instead of a Porsche or a 22-year-old, I just think a lot more about the end. I wonder what it's going to be like. I wonder if I'm even in the ball park. I wonder if I'm wrong about the end, if I'll be right about god or whatever conscious being awaits. But maybe mostly, I think about the fact that regardless of all my thinking, death is inevitable. There's a strange comfort in knowing I can't mess that up.

The reason I'm writing about death is because there's been so much of it lately in the chasing world. Creeping infections, suicide, traffic accidents, tornadoes themselves, and terminal illnesses. As it does every day across the planet, death has arrived in many forms and shaken the chasing community. And it seems that as the years pass, its visits become more frequent. Even people who are still alive are being ravaged by diseases that systematically kill the spark of personality and character, as the memory steadily fades to the point of oblivion. To use a cliche, life hangs by such a tiny thread.

Another thing reaching middle age has done for me is make me realize there are likely fewer days ahead than behind. That thought does two things to me. The first, obviously, is that it somewhat alarms me to think that I'm on the downside of life. Just the thought that I've probably lived over half my life is rather unsettling when I'm in that certain state-of-mind. But mostly what it does to me is make me even more determined to see as many tornadoes as possible. I don't slowly lose my lust for chasing as I get older, replacing it with the need for financial and social stability. Oh, I desire those things as well, but they are below my passion and fire to be out there on the Plains, driving a long stretch of open road, craning skyward, all the while my mind racing with the possibilities of what wonderment I might be fortunate enough to witness later that day.

Getting older for me is basically like time is a person, who's always with me, always reminding me that I'm running out of it. This makes me want to keep doing what I've been doing almost all of my adult life. I've never felt pressure (true pressure) to be successful at chasing tornadoes, but I do feel it when I think about the fact that time is running out. I've seen fellow chasers taken away far too soon, some even before they've reached their prime. Along with the initial shock and sorrow this brings, it's also another example how anyone could be next, including me. This thought lights a fire in me to keep this thing going. I don't make a living from it, I don't get respect for it, and it doesn't really provide much tangible evidence to show what I've done with my life. But it's the thing I love, it's what I do, and for me, it really is my identity. Not as in "Shane the chaser" but "Shane the guy who did what he loved and didn't worry about what the rest of the world thought about it."  It's not about chasing, it's about finding a chance at happiness and grabbing it with both hands and to hell with everything else.

I hate hearing about chasers I knew or knew of who die. I know everybody dies, but I always think "they had so much more in front of them." And they did. I think about the legacies these folks left behind and how they were cut short. I think about my own legacy and the burning passion inside me to keep building it. Each moment when time runs out for another, serves as a poignant reminder that time is always right beside me, but at any moment when I turn to face it, it could be gone.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Twitter Exile

Obviously, social media is nothing more than a conduit for information. All kinds of information, depending on what a person decides to share. It seems to be generally geared towards two distinct demographics: business and personal. It sounds easy enough, but for me the problem lies in between. I'm definitely not a business, and I certainly don't use social media for the purposes of finding friends, romance, or just an anonymous audience to recount my entire day to so I feel important. It was simply another way to promote my chasing. I got on board with social media years after the fact, in all avenues (MySpace in 2006, Facebook in 2009, Twitter in 2011). The only social media tool I got in on early was Google+, and two years later it's still a ghost town.

MySpace died and was replaced by Facebook, which has stood the test of time fairly well considering the age of no attention span in which we live. Because of this, on Facebook, I've got the most contacts, and the most contacts I know to some degree. So posts that have nothing to do with chasing are quite common, as often I seek to simply entertain others with my random, meaningless posting. I'm trying to incorporate G+ in much the same way, albeit a stronger effort to keep it mostly chase-related. But then there's Twitter.

I scoffed Twitter for years because of, like probably many others before me, the 140-character limit. It always seemed pointless to me, because I can provide text with links on FB and G+. But then I started considering how much I could broaden my audience, and eventually took the plunge in October of 2011. We'd had a pair of Twitter accounts since 2009 that Bridget started for the show and for us as chasers, but they had been mostly ignored. I decided to kill the show account, and turn the chasing one into an active resource for information on us and chasing; tweets, links to chase summaries, images, videos, etc. I started a "FROM THE VAULT" series which were random tweets, usually twice daily, that featured a storm or tornado image. I felt it would be a cool way to drum up more interest, and expand beyond our FB following.

For about a year it was good, but then as we collected more and more followers, suddenly the Twitter feed itself, which I had completely ignored for years, was getting busy enough to start being interesting. I had only posted in the year and a half I'd been active on twitter; reading the tweets of others (and interacting with them) had never occurred to me. The big eye-opener was Sally. I logged onto Twitter the night of that historic event, and watching my Twitter feed was almost like watching a live chat. Suddenly I had this new pipeline for networking with limitless new people, some of which might eventually become fans of my work and maybe even buy a video. I knew the percentages would be maybe one in a thousand at best, but I still couldn't resist the temptation of introducing the Twitter world to storm chaser Shane Adams. I was brand new to these folks.

Well, that worked for a little while, until the abrasive asshole side of me (mentioned in another blog entry about a week or so ago) reared its head on what had become my new Sunday evening pass time of drinking beer, reading my feed, and responding to random tweets. This was my way of trying to actually interact with some of the people who followed me, an olive branch of sorts that said "Hey, I see you following me. I read your stuff, and sometimes I have an opinion or a reply to what you say."  I thought people might relate to me more (and in the process get even more into the chasing side) if I actually paid attention to them and showed interest in what they were up to. It was a great idea, and for a while it worked. But then I discovered Twitter had the same sad drawback as every other thing on the world wide web: trolls. Or as they were called before the internet, assholes.

I had a lot of opinions about some of the things being said about chasers, most of which were coming from the Sunflower state (as most anti-chaser sentiments have since 2007). Suddenly, some Kansas followers didn't like me so much, and said so. The problem wasn't that they voiced an opinion, but that they had made their points, but felt it necessary to continue to attack me personally. Even that was tolerable, because some people just need to lash out at others to get through the day. I get it. But then people who I didn't follow, who didn't follow me, were suddenly jumping into the conversation, without analyzing it at all. I was now the bad guy, the jerkoff, the asshole, in a debate in which the root of my opinion lay in the fact I value human life (a fact I repeated more than once but was lost on everyone else). Screen shots of my home address were being tweeted, along with messages like "Here you go" and "Have fun with this guy" and the like, to which I very quietly and seriously replied "Careful what you do with that information."  After all, any dumbshit can access domain registration info on GoDaddy. But the fact it was being posted maliciously bothered me.

By the end, just before I jumped Twitter ship for good, it was a half dozen or so people threatening to hack my website and criticizing Bridget for life choices she spoke very candidly about in a blog that had been written almost five years prior, but was still live on the net. Because nobody can heckle with me online, the back-and-forthing was pointless. These people were shit, losers, and would keep coming back as long as I served them up. So the choice was made to dump Twitter, because it became obvious that more than likely these few dingleberries represented the majority of what was following me. It would've been too much work to cherry pick over 1400 followers to trim the fat, so I decided "fuck it" and simply deleted my account. I tried a brand new twitter account for about two weeks afterwards, adding only people I know and trust, or anyone who mentioned weather or chasing in their bio. But I realized all Twitter had become for me at that point was just a carbon copy of my Facebook feed. I just didn't need it.

So, I've learned my Twitter lesson. I just don't care enough to argue with the asstards that will surely surface whenever I tweet an opinion they deem wrong, harsh, or simply attention-seeking. And cutting them off means cutting off the only reason I tried Twitter in the first place, which is to gain new followers who are interested in my chasing adventures. So chock up yet another marketing failure for this guy. However, learning that quality over quantity isn't just hyperbole was well worth the experience. I'll take the few dozen folks who've always shown interest and supported me throughout the years over the several hundred who clicked "follow" because they're sorta interested in a picture I posted but mostly addicted to clicking "follow."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Project Update * Tornado: Icing or Cake?

After about a week of tinkering with and discovering the limitations of Windows Movie Maker, I think I'm pretty much done with pre-production. After several versions, cuts, additions, and tweaking, the video is pretty much set. I always know when I reach that point, because I have every edit memorized by audio cues. I could literally erase the project, reload all the raw clips, and have it re-edited in the time it takes to physically make the changes. Now I'll just sit back and wait to see if we score anything in the Fall, and if we do, I've already got "Plan B" lined out regarding what's going to get chopped to make room. Other than that, the only thing remaining are the credit details, which themselves can be a little taxing.

One thing I've always prided myself on, is the ability to remember the people who have helped me along the way, and to recognize them. Before I even made one DVD, I always knew I would have to have extended credits, because there were so many people I wanted to thank. There still are. Even the most insignificant-seeming action or experience can be, to me, a very memorable moment that I appreciate and don't forget (Steve Miller OK made the 'LOVE' credits for simply stopping alongside the highway one time to see if we needed any help). But with giving credit where it's due comes the task of remembering all those little moments on cue, altogether, which can sometimes be impossible for me. I can randomly remember them all, just going through my day, but sitting down with a pen and a notebook and forcing myself to write down every name like a school roll call, that can be daunting. Not because writing down names is difficult, but because of the fear of unintentionally omitting one or two (like Scott Bennett on the 'Out of the Blue' credits, a huge oversight because he supplied the phone for The Debris Show which added an incredible dynamic to the show).

So this time around I'm doing it differently. In the past I've always waited until production, and made the list up in a matter of minutes, literally while sitting in front of the computer staring at the storyboard. Cramming, basically. I figured this time, why not just start now and add as I remember them naturally. Just before I began writing this post, another name came to mind that I didn't write down yesterday, so it's working LOL. I know the people themselves might not care whether or not their name appears on an obscure DVD credit roll, hell they might not even remember the things that earned them their place. But it means something to me to recognize those who, as far as I'm concerned, helped me out in some way, shape, or form during the period of time the DVD covers. Offering me a ride, stopping to see if I need help, buying us dinner, or just hanging out with us one night after a chase, just enjoying the company. When you live to chase, it all means something to you. And it's all worthy of a "thank you" at the end.

Jumping topics now, I've been seeing the old familiar chaser phrase "who needs a tornado when...." popping up a lot lately. I intentionally left the end of that open because, in my opinion, it doesn't matter why they're saying it, just that they do. One of the most rehashed subjects in the world of chasing is the "tornado" versus "storm" chaser conversation. The overwhelming perception is, the storm chaser is a noble, humble breed who will take great structure over a tornado, and actually prefers it. The reality is, the storm chaser is pretty much like any chaser, except he/she will take structure on a day when they don't see any tornadoes. There are some pure structure storm chasers, who will actually target areas where they expect to see great storm structure, with no regard to tornado potential. But most of those I would consider photographers first. This is not a slight, just an observation and subsequent opinion.

The reason the words "who needs a tornado when..." bother me is because it means the person saying them feels they need to somehow justify that they (1) missed a tornado, (2) didn't see any tornadoes because there were none, or (3) don't hold the tornado as the ultimate prize but merely icing. If it's the first one, who cares? So you missed the tornado but got great structure - congrats!!! If it's the middle reason, again, who cares? You got great structure and didn't miss any tubes because there weren't any - congrats!!! If it's the last one...who cares? So you don't chase for tornadoes. This means your success rate is about 4-5 times higher than most chasers' - congrats!!!

There are chasers out there who, when experiencing one of the first two situations described above, are truly, perfectly happy coming home with just great structure. There are chasers out there whose chasing agenda and philosophy match the third description. And none of these chasers ever utter the words "Who needs a tornado when..." This is just my opinion, but I believe the people who do use that term are doing nothing more than attempting to sooth themselves after coming home with no tornado. If the tornado isn't the single most sought-after, polarizing phenomenon chasers hunt, then why must it be referenced every time a chase ends with anything just shy of it? If all these chasers truly consider the tornado "just icing" (and if you peruse the net and look at enough chaser bios you'll see this is a recurring theme) then why even mention it when it doesn't happen? Because at the end of the day, what every chaser who speaks the term "who needs a tornado when..." really wants, is a tornado.