Friday, August 31, 2012

In a Blue Moon

Tonight is a blue moon.

Two nights ago as I was out running––because I was in a dark mood and that's what I do when I'm in a dark mood; but that's beside the point––I reached the spot where I usually turn around back to the west and noticed that the sun was setting. Looking down at my shoes and the gravel as I ran I saw they were all bathed in this fantastic light that alternated somewhere between orange and crimson and rose. Realizing the only thing more beautiful than the sunset itself must be the hills behind me in that light, I turned back to the east, still running––(I wouldn't particularly recommend or endorse running backwards––by the way). While the landscape was breathtaking, I was even more impressed by the  moon rising as the sun was setting, and thought how big and beautiful it looked. Then I ran seven more miles trying to forget whatever was bothering me, and also forgot about the moon.

I had completely forgotten what I had known the first of this month. That is, that August this year would have two full moons, and didn't think of it again until this evening after supper when my Mom mentioned it. Only an hour later, it appeared.

There was a huge bonfire in our yard for some reason, so to snap some photos away from the light, I walked out into the field just above our garden. I took a number of shots with the f-number tuned way up and the shutter speed slowed down that were sharp and clear, and showed the craters or 'mares' on the surface and everything that a good moon-picture is supposed to show. But I was really unimpressed with them. They'll never be as good as others that you could just google. So instead I chose this one that is as far out of focus and blurry as it could possibly be. If you just look at it fast I think it gives you a better feeling of what it really was like.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beowulf the Wilber

About six months ago I took a course on the history of the English language. While I had trouble keeping a few of my friends awake through it, there were several parts that I thought were genuinely interesting. One of those was the origin of English names. My family on my Dad's side is English, so it prompted me to do some research into the history of Wilber. 

Most English last-names it seems, are either trade names like Miller, Baker, Forester, Cooper etc. or Norman (aka French) Aristocratic names like Stewart, Williams, etc. Wilber, it turns out, is neither of those things. It isn't Norman. William Wilberforce, for instance, was part of the British House of Commons, not the House of Lords, meaning that he wasn't a "Lord," suggesting being of non-Norman descent.

Further research turned up a book, The Wildbores in America, published by John Reid Wilbor in 1869. It is the only attempt I know of to list a complete genealogy of the family, and contains the info for all Wilbers, Wilburs and Wilbors living in the U.S. before 1869. All the variations in spelling, according to the book, derive from the original form, Wildbore.

Wildbore or Wyldbore is an Old English word, thus confirming my belief that it isn't Norman––Old English predates the Norman Conquest of 1066. And it means just what it sounds like: Wild Boar. In fact, according to Roger-Cyndy Wilber––who just happened to be superviser for the NYS Research Library's preservation unit––the 1st edition of The Wildbores in America (which I have unfortunately been unable to find online) contains the Wildbore family crest––"two wild boars on either side of a trefoil."

While I was happy to find out Wilber was Anglo-Saxon, not Norman (I mean really, who likes the Normans?), the meaning of the name brought up a whole new range of questions. As I said before, Wild Boar doesn't really seem likely as a trade name. So if the Wild Boars weren't Norman overlords, but were important enough to have a family crest, and apparently were interesting enough to not be named after some form of menial labor, it begs the question: Who were these people?

The only key I could think of had to be in the place the wild boar––the animal itself that is––held in pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon culture. According to everything I read, the boar was considered to be the most ferocious beast in the forest of Ancient Briton and played an important, if not central role in pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon and Norse Mythology. It was also a popular symbol for warriors.

So there. Anglo-Saxon Warriors. If the Wildbore family crest is a shield with boars on it, Wilber is an Anglo-Saxon name, and there were specific Anglo-Saxon clans or even individual warriors who shared the boar insignia on their armor, then it seemed the logical step in finding out the origin of the Wilber Family would be to see if there were any records of who these warriors were.

I searched for documents containing 'Wild-Boar+Saxon+Warrior,' and can you guess what turned up across the board? Beowulf. While there were a few other results, such as a Viking warrior cult of the Svinfylking and an account King Alfred in battle, the earliest, and most pervasive one was the famous Old English Warrior Epic, Beowulf.

In the story, Beowulf's battle helmet is described as "wonderfully formed, beset with swine forms so that it then no blade nor battle-swords to bite were able...." (John Porter's translation, lines 1452-1454).

So Beowulf was my ancestor? Well... probably not. I have to qualify by saying I realize Beowulf was most likely not a real person. Rather the story of unknown authorship was probably based on the archetypes set by multiple people.

I do feel it's at least probable though, that if a number of warriors did exist who were Anglo-Saxon, and used what they in their own language would have called the Wildbore as their symbol, that some of them were the founders of the Wilber family as it exists today. And being descended from ancient pagan Anglo-Saxon warriors is pretty cool––even if it isn't possible to prove they were Beowulf.

And on the other hand, maybe it won't always be impossible to prove. More and more evidence has been discovered that validates the stories within Beowulf, like the viking burial ships that have been discovered in the UK that scholars previously thought were only a myth. Or this Anglo-Saxon battle helmet. It has a Wildbore on top.

Monday, August 20, 2012


A couple days ago I went ahead and did something I'd been thinking about for a long time: Created a demo-reel.

It doesn't seem like it should be that hard. It's mainly just a mashup of two-to-five second clips from films and promo-videos I've already completed, after all. For some reason sorting through my past 14 months of work and making choices about what to include seemed daunting to me. Seemingly arbitrary decisions are always the most exhausting.

Then there was the issue of a soundtrack. I couldn't find any legally usable music I liked for it, so in the end I finally buckled down and turned DJ for an hour and to cook up a little down-beat electronica thing. Was actually surprisingly rather happy with how it turned out.

Then came the painful part: Decided what to included and how to order it. I decided that the first half would––in general––focus on people, and the second half––in general––on places. Because I go through close to ten videos in two minutes it plays a bit choppy, but I decided I would rather have that than risk doing something cheesy with transitions. If you have a minute, feel free to take a look.

Andrew Wilber Demo Reel 1.2 from Andrew Wilber on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Under the Perseids

It's been a long time since my last post. Really quite an unacceptably long time.

It certainly isn't that I haven't done anything––although I haven't been terribly busy either. I think the main challenge was that the things I did kept me away from home, making it less likely that I'd blog. At the same time, those things have been of the kind that are difficult to concisely describe in a blog post.

Last weekend, for instance, was really fun. I spent it with my family at a friend's house where I had a marvelous time running around on hay-bales, sleeping on the grass under the falling stars during a meteor shower––the Perseids I think, and playing music in a drum circle for several thousand NASCAR fans who were stuck in traffic on the road next to their house, which runs right by the Watkins Glen Racetrack.

So it was a great time, but also a sprawling time that I'm far too lazy to write about in a way that would attempt to capture its essence in any compelling sense.

A few days before that, I went to a Mumford & Sons concert in Canandaigue, which was a phenomenal experience as well. We were in cheap seats; or rather non-seats as it was more of a field. But I ended up being glad we were where we were, because we could see the shooting stars falling behind––as it were––the stage. There are lots of shooting stars in August. Of course sometimes they were hard to see through the cloud of cannabis smoke that was hovering over the entire audience, but I'm sure that only made it better for some people. Mumford & Sons were phenomenal––even without pot, which, as one of the few people on the hillside who was not smoking, I can say with honesty.

This afternoon I just returned from Maryland. I was helping a friend who was helping his girlfriend move to New York, and so I spent a day and night in a suburb of Baltimore. It was the first time I can remember being in Maryland for any reason other than driving through it. And usually driving through it at the narrowest point, which takes about 15 minutes.

Packing the van was quite an experience––as the furniture was solid oak and all on the second floor. But I think that experience was matched in intensity by the adventure of getting the van out of the city. I had only limited experience driving in cities. That changed. Driving behind in a car, I think I intentionally cut off about a thousand people on a dozen occasions to let the van merge in front of me.

It was all fun though. After last weekend I felt like I wasn't ready to be home just yet. It may be a little adventure in the sketchier satellites of a major metropolis was all I needed. Spending the night there was fun too. You couldn't see the stars though. Maybe they'd all fallen by then.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Demon-Mouse Saga Part II

Judging by the traffic-share received by my last post about the mouse that had taken up residence in my bedroom and seemed inconceivably able to rob traps with complete impunity, if you read this blog even infrequently, chances are you know what I'm talking about.  If not, here is the link.

While I attempted to "live trap" the wily rodent the night after it successfully jumped free of two springing traps in a row, that failed just as miserably. I placed a piece of chocolate on top of a precariously balanced piece of tissue paper over the mouth of a Mason jar. The mouse somehow managed to get it off without falling in, so there was no live trap.

Last evening, my grandpa, who heard I had a mouse problem, brought up a bag full of rat poison. I wasn't looking forward to using it, not only because I'd rather not have rat poison laying around my room, but also because I've always felt like poisoning the little guys is a bit low (at least compared to an old-fashioned mouse trap). It didn't look like I had many alternatives though.

Then, just a few minutes after my grandpa left, and long before I made up my mind about the poison, I heard a noise in my closet. This was unusual as mice typically wait until the wee hours of the morning to come out and wreak havoc, and it was only early evening. I set out the trap though––and the camera. Only about a minute later, this happened:

It looks like the battle is over. But the war is still coming. It's barely even August, and mice don't usually become a problem here until late September!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How the government is killing marketing jobs

[Advisory - this post contains vague political references. I usually try to stay away from politics entirely on this blog, but once in a blue moon, I become upset enough about something to break my rule. And this month is a blue moon. No, really, it is. Look it up.]


I majored in communication studies and always thought of it as a practical field. If not the media side of it, then at least the marketing and business side of it. Anything that sounds that boring has to be practical, right? I also remember a time, close to when I started school, when at least half the adults I knew did something that could be considered marketing or brand related. So a month or so ago, when I decided to temporarily moth-ball my media aspirations and look for marketing careers, I expected to find a much deeper field of openings. To my surprise and consternation, there wasn't. Not only was there surprisingly little online, but when I started asking around, most of my older, more experienced acquaintances who worked in the field had been laid off.

While 95% of my disappointing job search for marketing positions took place on the web and around the country, I did casually talk to a few people locally about opportunities. One of them was a friend who works for a contracting company that updates comercial hardware to new state energy efficiency standards. When I heard they were expanding, I asked him if they do any marketing (hinting that I might be interested). He replied that they "don't do that." Even though they are an independent company, the program they run is initiated by the state, so they get contracts straight from the state organization––which takes care of all of the incentivizing people to want the job done. No marketers needed.

This isn't just the story with my friend's business. So many of the companies I've looked at, whether they're health-care, environment or financial, while not controlled by the government, cater very closely to the ever expanding web of government incentives and mandates. And why shouldn't they? If those incentives and mandates create demand––artificial or not––it's only natural that they would rush to supply that demand. It's what business does. And politicians can thus correctly point to those incentives and mandates creating jobs. Reason for celebration (and re-election), right?

But what is marketing based on? Marketing is based on persuasion. It's the art of using persuasive communication and rhetoric to convince people to willingly use a product or service.

So what happens if people are forced to use a product or service? Marketing becomes irrelevant. That's what happens with tax incentives and industry mandates. The government doesn't say: "Buy this because it will save you money," or "because you'll be sexy" or "because it's right." The government just says: "Buy this or go home." Thus––and correct me if my logic is wrong––the more products and services that are mandated in our country, the less marketing will be needed. And I think we can safely say that products and services in general are becoming more incentivized and mandated by the government; not less.

There is hope though. To my unemployed graphic artist, web-developer, script-writer, social media guru, advertiser and other persuasive communication minded comrades I say this: There is a silver lining to the cloud. Once government involvement in consumer affairs and individual lives has reached its historic climax, you will find your services in great demand. The Party Ministry of Propaganda will be recruiting the brightest and the best with open arms. All you have to do is make sure now that you are in the right party, and naturally by 'right' I don't actually mean 'right,' I mean 'left.'