Mimesis and Me, Crazy Together?

Back when Bloomberg Law kind of existed, former ABA Journal editor Ed Adams came to me with an idea.  Why not try to do a short segment, a one-man narrative of sorts, with a rant on one of the subjects here.

It was an interesting idea, despite my face-made-for-radio issue, so I gave it a try in the solitude of SJ studios. I hated it.  I thought I just totally sucked, so I begged off the project.  I was shallow and un-illuminating, and couldn’t get comfortable flying solo.

After Bloomberg imploded, its main on-air interviewer, Lee Pacchia, decided to start Mimesis Web TV.  I always thought very highly of Lee. Mimesis has a multipronged approach, producing videos for others, law schools and big firms, for example, as well as its own channel of law content for its own use and that of other law sources.  After doing an interview with Lee, he brought up Ed’s old idea about doing a one-man show.

We did it a little differently than what I tried, and failed miserably, to do before. In The Street studios on Wall Street, Lee would pitch me questions, and I would go off on my own for a minute or two giving whatever thoughts popped into my head.

They would come one after another, and I would just sit there for a half hour making noise.  Whether the noise was anything worth anyone else’s time I couldn’t say. That was up to Lee, who would then dice and splice himself out of the take and leave me to ramble by my lonesome.

Since then, I’ve done about ten videos.  Some have seen the light of day. Others were either so sucky or grew stale over time that they died a lonely death.  It’s never been intended to be too slick or take itself too seriously, while I’ve tried to do something that was worth a viewer’s time to watch.

I’ve learned a lot from the experience, and I’m still learning. I have a way to go to make this informative and, well, more interesting.  One of the things that troubles me is that I really haven’t been as humorous as I hoped to be, though the subjects have been pretty serious.  I’m still working on it.

But here’s my “crowdsourced” question, is this worthwhile?  What do you think, am I doing something that helps, hurts or is just too damn boring to be worth it?  Yes, I’m asking for your opinion, and expect no tummy rubs.  Here are some examples:

So?  For those who’ve been waiting for the chance to kick my butt and get me back for all the mean things I’ve said, this is your chance. Go for it.

45 comments on “Mimesis and Me, Crazy Together?

  1. Leo

    I enjoy these, Scott. They’re long enough to be informative, but short enough to keep the attention of those who might not be to review all approximately 645,792 Simple Justic posts.

    The music is annoying, and its tone too light compared with the gravity of the subject matter, so I am glad the third video doesn’t have it. Lose it, or change it.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      When we picked the intro, it was with the expectation that I would be my usual, snarky self. It was a goof on my curmudgeonly status. But with my more serious commentary, it’s not nearly as funny as hoped, and may be more inappropriate than anything else.

      Reply
      1. Leo

        Exactly. If you were being flip or glib the music would be delightfully appropriate. The music now sets up an expectation that the show will be a parody of Masterpiece Theater, or like an intro for the Zach Galifinakis webshow “Between Two Ferns”. (Look it up, if you care for absurdist humor).

        Content is excellent.

        Reply
  2. Cristian

    I’d watch these religiously, but if the intent is to go viral and have the youth of America love you, then the music and the PBS/religious channel feel need to go. (Vox and Fusion are examples of folks doing cool, short informative videos for the smartphone era.)

    Also, you should try talking a little faster and with a sense of urgency—channel a bit of the outrage that SJ is known for.

    If you blow up, I volunteer to be your stylist.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Yeah, I need to pick up the pace. This is different than when I debate, and I tend to get slower and more pedantic in my delivery. I need to do better.

      Reply
  3. RAFIV

    (Cue devil sign hand gestue)
    Metal! Like the demented love child of Mephistopheles and William F. Buckley’s Firing Line.

    On a serious note, I found the alteration of tone an important component of my enjoyment of the videos as a whole. The music is an amusing addition to your more sarcasm laden comments. Its absence in the Ferguson video alerted the listener that something was different and allowed the seriousness of both the topic and the ideas to shine through. I would like to see this pattern continue in future videos but that may because I have not had any coffee today.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      You picked up on my primary influence, Bill Buckley’s Firing Line. Whether I agreed with him or not, I loved that show and I had enormous respect for his genius.

      Reply
  4. Charles B. "Brad" Frye

    The videos suffer by comparison to your writing. I “hear” more urgency and emotion in the writing than I do in the video. Along those lines, the writing develops the arguments and concepts more completely than the videos. That is an inherent limitation of short-form video.

    That said, the videos are excellent, and for someone who hasn’t gotten spoiled by your writing, will make wonderful introductions to the concepts you discuss.

    Without knowing your comfort level in the “art,” I would advocate for more “heat” in the videos, so as to convey the intensity which naturally occurs in your writing. Young Mark Bennett has much to say on the subject of mixing the art of theater with the art of communication, and perhaps we’ll hear his voice on the subject soon.

    I’m a fan and look forward to more of these. If and when you take a vote, I vote that the videos be incorporated into the current blog.

    Thus concludes my $.02.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      You raise one of my biggest concerns about the videos, that they can’t have the depth of a blog post, which disturbs me. I really don’t want to do something superficial, and I worry that’s what I’m doing in the videos.

      Reply
      1. Charles B. "Brad" Frye

        They are not superficial, at all, when taken for what they are. They are not documentaries, they are overviews or introductions or, for want of a better description, a “taste” of the subject.

        In content, they will not equal the depth of the written post; but, that is not their function. If the videos were the only “product,” perhaps you would have a valid concern. Seen as a part of the whole, though, they are a worthwhile adjunct. If they get folks to think, even a little bit, about the subject and, even better, to read the blog, they will have served admirably.

        Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

        Reply
  5. Dan Quigley

    Love the content. To my ear, the presentation is more like Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America than Buckley’s show.

    It matters little in the end. More please!

    Reply
  6. Mark Draughn

    I like the idea, and I think you should keep at this. If you’re not sure, before you give up on it, maybe set yourself a goal of doing, say, 8 or 10 of these — the number isn’t that important, but it should be a bit of a push — and then see if you like the direction it’s going.

    Like everyone else, I think the music isn’t working. You’d have to be a lot more gonzo for the irony to score.

    If you think you do better in a debate, then this might work better if you got your host to debate and challenge you, but then edit out all his questions so all that’s left is you energetically explaining your position.

    Technically, I don’t know what kind of resources are available, but I think you need to make things more visually interesting. I’m not saying you should have zany graphics, but maybe a different camera angle from time to time wouldn’t hurt, and maybe open with a provocative quote from you before the titles to give people a clue what to expect. Also, I had to fight the urge to tilt my monitor 20 degrees to the left.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Some good ideas. Lee? You listening, buddy?

      As for my listing aport, suck it up. That’s pure Buckley, and I’m not changing.

      Reply
      1. Rick Horowitz

        So one side of you buckles? Maybe a corset would help.

        The frilly, lacey ones could help make the music work, too.

        I like the idea, and since fewer people these days seem to want to read, I think you should keep trying. Seems to me that even a “natural would need time to find a formula that feels totally comfortable.

        But, yes, punch it up. And in the Ferguson piece, which I liked because of the insertion of video from Ferguson, you looked like you were reading.

        This could become a thing, so you need a snappy name for this new format. Maybe “vlog”?

        Reply
        1. SHG Post author

          I was reading off the teleprompter, just to see how it went. Now I have my answer. I’m so ashamed.

          As for my leaning, you miss the point. It’s not an accident, but my homage to Buckley. So no corsets.

          Reply
  7. TJR

    I like the choice of music (at least as an intro). It’s classical and not necessarily an indicator of parody/comedy. No complaints about the content and delivery.

    Reply
      1. TJR

        No, no…Just someone who knows his music…and doesn’t really know much at all about directing and producing videos.

        Reply
  8. Jim

    Another vote that they are worth doing. I think the length and amount of content was about right.

    However, I agree with others above the tone is off. Hearing the opening music I was expecting snark, so I think it fit with your initial intent of being snarky that you mentioned in another comment. If you are not going to be snarky, something else would be better.

    I also think you are right about pace of delivery you mentioned in another comment. Speeding up a bit would help. However, I think your delivery in the Ferguson video was much better in this regard than the other two, or it might also have been the cuts to other videos and pictures helped as well. The pace in that video was right to digest what you were saying and what you were seeing.

    Reply
  9. John Barleycorn

    The My Dinner With Andre format, although it may suit your choice of sports coats, might not suit you.

    Broadcast television is dead anyway.

    “Radio” and live streaming from the lions den is where the snark speaks.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      I wanted a beach in the background, with me drinking a diet Corona with a nice lime wedge, but Lee was too cheap to spring for the lime.

      Reply
    2. John Barleycorn

      Oh yeah, Bowie’s Moonage Daydream might be a soundtrack worthy of consideration while you sort out your extracurricular activities.

      Figuring out how to broadcast your written voice somewhere in sync or at least in parallel with the montage of the day should prove a worthy challenge for you.

      Keep it up!

      Reply
        1. John Barleycorn

          Sit up straight man! There isn’t a damn thing you can do if they choose to crop out the parts when your hands are accentuating the bass line.

          Is such a holy place to be
          Make me baby, make me know you really care

          Reply
  10. Richard G. Kopf

    SHG,

    What you are doing is worthwhile, and generally quite good. However, if you aren’t already doing so, I think you should write a script for each segment that is produced. Then, I think you should read the script exactly as written from the teleprompter when the segment is taped.

    Why a script read from a teleprompter? By writing and rewriting the script you are likely to find that you will be more funny, more clear and more interesting as you hone the written word. Once you have the script the way you want it, and assuming you don’t memorize it, there is a temptation to go extemporaneous. Don’t. What you make up will never be as good as the script. Lastly, you can learn to master the teleprompter such that it will not appear that you are reading–short declarative sentences and including pause points and such in the script will help. After all, lots of terminally stupid television anchors have been able to master the teleprompter. You can too.

    One final point. Approach these videos with the same passion that you approach your blog posts. Television is the “cold” medium, and it is your job to heat it up.

    Good luck! All the best.

    RGK

    PS I have several small bitches. As soon as I heard the music, I thought of Saturday Night Live. The eye glasses on the law book are painfully obvious visual prompts that you don’t need. Why not a screen shot of your blog photo of a prison and prisoners in days gone by. The blue blazer and blue shirt work, the other outfit not so much. Graphics or videos are fine assuming they are brief and minimal. We will tune in to listen to you, and not to be wowed by the graphics or videos.

    Reply
  11. Jake DiMare

    I agree with much of what’s been said. Update the intro. You look/sound great. The content is excellent and the format is a phenomenal adjacency to Simple Justice.

    The positioning of a tele-prompt is critically important…Must be almost perfectly aligned with the camera, if not 100% aligned…

    Reply
  12. lawrence kaplan

    I like the introductory music per se, but it sets the wrong tone.

    Your content and the length are fine, but the delivery needs more oomph, more fire, more passion.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      I will work on my oomph. I will take my inspiration from the video on my sidebar to right. Just the “right amount” of angry.

      Reply
  13. TM

    Now I know just what it sounds like when you tell me to get off your lawn.

    I love this segment, and think you are just the man for the job. So, thank you for putting yourself out there in an effort to create a more informed public.

    Reply
  14. Levi

    I thought the videos were good, but as long as you are writing your normal blog posts I will probably stick to those and ignore the videos. I think that polishing up the delivery at best lets you approach the quality and bite of your written work.

    For me, the underlying issue is similar to why I no longer watch political debates and stick to transcripts. People get hung up on eye rolling and hesitancy (as though we want to discourage thought and careful answers) and ignore substantive points that are plain in back and white because they weren’t delivered like “zingers”. I know many people prefer to get those visual cues and it helps them engage with the issues discussed, but to me it just slows down content delivery and your content is already top-notch. However, as long as you enjoy doing them then I can appreciate that this could put important issues in front of people who don’t have the patience to read your blog.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      You raise one of the questions that keeps going through my head. Why am I doing this? I already have this blawg, where I already write about the same issues, except in greater depth, so why do the videos? I don’t really have a good answer.

      Reply

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