Relevance for the Irrelevant

I was one of the millions of people who tuned into the Superbowl last Sunday afternoon. I didn’t really have a team that I felt strongly about winning so I was pulling for the Green Bay Packers to lose since they knocked out the Chicago Bears. I have pulled for the Bears ever since the 1986 Superbowl Shuffling team beat the New England Patriots (a team from the Boston, that for obvious reasons as a New York Yankees fan, I love to see lose). Of course, as you now know, me pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t help their cause.

Just like most of our readers, for some reason, I felt obligated to tune in. Perhaps that has something to do with football and the NFL becoming more and more the national pastime. As a baseball fan, deep down inside, this bothers me. In semi-silent protest, I watched the game while hanging out on Facebook and paid more attention to the commercials than the game, all while trying to forget about Christina Aguilera’s butchering of the National Anthem. I wasn’t the only one on Facebook during the game.  It was interesting to see how Facebook responded to plays, calls from referees, and commercials.

After the commercial (posted above for your viewing pleasure) from Volkswagen played during the Superbowl, friend of IBD Joel Frey made the following comment: “It’s pretty amazing that Star Wars is still relevant 30+ years after its debut.” Of course I loved the commercial, which had nothing to do with the Darth Vader costume that I was wearing at the time, but Joel’s statement got me thinking.

I had to watch the game because I’m a sports fan and baseball hasn’t started yet but also because football is part of the American culture. The NFL has been responsive to changing times and changed the game to better meet the needs of modern audiences. Baseball has been slow to change. The NFL has worked towards parity amongst teams leading to better competition. In the meantime MLB has imposed no salary cap which in turn has allowed the Yankees to dominate the league (not that there is anything wrong with that). The NFL has taken on challenges such as steroids while MLB has avoided them. NFL ratings are at an all time high and MLB ratings are suffering. For the record, baseball is the best sport.

Star Wars has managed to stay relevant by offering new sequels/prequels, cartoons, toys, games, websites, licenses, and many other products/media to stay relevant as well as capitalize on. The success is partly based on a great product to begin with. The other part is planned and purposeful.

So this isn’t why you tuned in today, but it is why I wrote this post. Paul and I want to stay relevant to you and your work. We are about to begin our third year writing this blog, and we realize that there are millions of better things that you could be doing with your time. Writing frankly, we are not really sure why you aren’t doing those things. Writing honestly, Paul and I have not been very successful at staying interesting or relevant to anyone ever. Our wives stay with us because they feel sorry for us and still think they can help us. We are their ultimate project.

We could continue at this blog’s current pace for a lifetime. The internet could be long gone and we may continue to write these posts to simply entertain each other (which is how this blog really came to be). If you have ever spent time with either of us alone, you now know how much socialization we need. Based on what we have learned (here on IBD and in high school) is that it is much better with you here. As numbers, readers, comments and hits have grown so has our desire to stay relevant.

Through several conversations we are planning on shaking things up a bit this next year but before we do, we would like your input. We don’t want this blog to turn into a six-hour read, written by two guys hopped up on HGH who spit all of the time, without any possibility of instant replay, and who don’t ever change the rules.

We love baseball and could easily let IBD become steeped in tradition (a strange tradition of comments in parenthesis). So, here’s your chance to tell us which type of posts you like. Let us know what topics you would like us to write about. Tell us who has the best shaped head? What series (Ask A Nerd, Get to Know a Color, I’ve Got Problems, Get to Know a Typeface) do you like best? Would you like more or fewer posts? Do you like longer or shorter posts? All friendly comments are welcome all mean comments pointed towards me will be deleted, those directed towards Paul will be accepted. If there are no comments we are going to move forward with some plans, that you may or may not notice but we want you to be a part of the process.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we need some ideas too.

Live from Australia, Part 2: Koalas Are Not Bears

I can’t think of a place more closely associated with its wildlife than Australia, with the possible and notable exception of old Shea Stadium and its car-sized rats. Australia has not one, but two animals—kangaroos and koalas—that people associate with it and nowhere else. Pictured above is my three-year-old daughter Maya at a park called Bungalow Bay on Magnetic Island in Queensland, where rangers demonstrate and let visitors handle animals, including koalas—a signature experience because it happens here and nowhere else.

And Australians are proud of their native animal friends. I made the mistake of referring to koalas as koala bears shortly after my arrival here last Sunday and was chased out of town by a mob of irate, torch-bearing interpreters yelling, “They’re MARSUPIALS!”

With the NAI International Conference having just ended Saturday, I’m feeling reflective about my time in Queensland. In addition to the fact that koalas are not bears, here are some things I have learned Down Under:

Stuff kills you here.
Australia is home not only to cuddly, bouncy animals, but also an amazing concentration of intensely venomous snakes and spiders, jellyfish that leave gash-like scars on people who swim in the ocean (but only during summer, so don’t worry), and schnauzers that can kill you with laser beams shot from their eyes. (I have not been able to confirm the existence of laser schnauzers with the scientific community, but I figure there has to be a reason for all of these “No Schnauzer” signs I saw all over Townsville.) While visiting the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway near Cairns, we saw a whole bunch of the spiders pictured above. I’m not sure whether they’re venomous, but they’re the size of my fist so I’m not interested in finding out.

You can run, but you can’t hide.
In Australia, it’s warm at Christmastime and cold in July. They call strollers prams, drive on the left side of the road, and wear thongs on their feet. Here, Foster’s is not Australian for beer. And in spite of all these differences, they still have the same default fonts on their computers.

When I presented an Interpretation By Design session last week during the conference, a very nice Australian woman who I learned later is an important member of the Townsville interpretive community suggested that she liked to use Comic Sans for her communication aimed at children. (I could tell who our regular IBD readers were in the room by where the snickers were coming from.) I diplomatically explained that Comic Sans doesn’t look like actual children’s handwriting but rather an adult’s interpretation of children’s handwriting and that there’s a special circle of Hell waiting for Comic Sans creator Vincent Connare. And it just so happened that the very next image in my slide show was the above photo, shot in the market next to our hotel.

I asked: Do you really want to make the same decision about the type for your interpretive materials that the owner of this market made about how best to promote $3 sausage rolls?

Jon Hooper is a smart dude.
When I presented the IBD session, I had the opportunity to use a simple but very useful PowerPoint trick I learned from NAI’s Jon Hooper, who writes about PowerPoint for Legacy magazine. Shea and I routinely have too many slides for the time allotted when we present. At the last NAI National Workshop in Hartford, Jon was in attendance when we once again ran out of time and had to skip a bunch of slides to get to our big conclusion. The room filled with groans and complaints when participants saw what we were skipping.

Jon pointed out something that was new to me, but probably old news to most IBD readers: If, mid-PowerPoint show, you type in a number and hit return, it jumps you directly to the slide that corresponds with that number. So if you know that your big conclusion starts on slide 58, you can go there at any time and your audience will never know the difference. This trick can help you make fluid transitions from one part of your show to another. Thanks, Jon!

Interpreters are a fair dinkum lot.
At the risk of bashing your ear, every time I find myself somewhere chockers with my interpreter cobbers, I find them a bunch of daggy, bonza blokes. Whether it’s the NAI International Conference, the NAI National Workshop, or one of NAI’s regional workshops, I dip my lid to NAI members and interpretive professionals everywhere, whether they be city slickers or from the mulga. Hooley dooley, this is the ridgy-didge: Interpreters are real rippers, and have the fun of Cork, too! (I thought I’d try out some of the Aussie slang I’ve picked up. I may have to change my pen name to Paul “Hogan” Caputo and write like this all the time.)

I interviewed Sam Ham for a video series NAI is producing, and asked him, “How do you define success?” His response boiled down to: If you’re happy in life because you love what you do and where you do it, you’re successful—and interpreters are among the most successful people in the world.

And that’s a real purler.