Blink, Or Don’t, And You’ll Miss Me

From the Archive – 12/11/05

I am an attention miser (perhaps a distant cousin of Heat and Snow) . . . .

I tend to pay it out in very small doses (as my friend Knat said in her brilliant article, How to be Distracted, "Hey look, a squirrel"), measure the value of things in my life by how much attention I’m willing to spend on them (my only real fear is of being bored), and, if there is attention changing hands anywhere in the neighborhood, I’d prefer to be at the center of it.

Since I was a teen-ager, from my early, star-making turn as Silas Ezekial Dobbins (you certainly remember the catchphrases of 1985, "I lak-a-you!" and "Heckfire!") in the Enumclaw High School production of Felicia Metcalfe’s thoroughly non-ground-breaking farce, Off The Track  and the vocal performance of Simon & Garfunkel’s Baby Driver (complete with my famous blistering ukulele solo, and, yes, I still wonder how your engines feel) that helped rocket three friends of mine and me straight to the upper middle of the Western Regional KEY Club talent show, I’ve rarely missed an opportunity to let people notice me. (I also rarely miss an opportunity to use long sentences and short paragraphs, as my friend Roy points out here.)

November 21st was no exception.

NBC, the network that once tried to boost summer viewership with the mortifying "If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me!" campaign, airs a show hosted by singer Amy Grant called Three Wishes. It is a reality show of sorts, but unlike so many others, it is thoughtful, engaging, upbeat, and, as reluctant as I am to say it, even heartwarming. Like most of the best shows of the type, the basic concept is simple, and could have been written by a four year old: "Nice people do nice things for other nice people, and at the end, the pretty lady sings!"

Unfortunately, most television networks are run by three year olds. This, combined with the fact that A) I actually like the show a lot and 2) NBC airs it in the television dumpster known as 9:00 on Friday night, guarantees that the show doesn’t stand a chance. As a matter of fact, the most recent, and most important episode (because I’m in it, but I won’t mention that until the paragraph after next) is the last one of the season, and very possibly the last one ever. Thankfully, NBC (pronounced FOX) has ordered up a mid-season replacement, Most Outrageous TV Moments. Television about television, skipping straight to the outrageous parts, without all of that irritating plot, context and production value to slow you down.  This is a proactive move on NBC’s part to meet the FCC’s mandate that all television must be broadcast in ADHDTV by 2007.  

Speaking of ADHD, I’m digressing.

Back to November 21st. The producers of Three Wishes came to Microsoft because one of their segments centered around a smart and well-spoken young man called Kiyaan who wanted to be CEO of Microsoft for a day. Like any sensible visitor, after wallowing for a half hour in our secret money room, he headed straight for the Games group. He went to a couple of meetings, and even sat down with Bill Gates himself for a few minutes. At one point, word went out that they wanted some footage of Kiyaan bossing around a lab full of testers playing Xbox360 games. Even though most of us don’t work in labs (my office has windows, with a view of the parking lot, but, sadly, not of the gravel pit), and this, the day before the console’s launch, was actually the first time I’d ever personally played a game on the 360, it was only right that I should be involved. So, short story long, I sat and played PGR3 while the cameras rolled. When Kiyaan walked in, I was actually the only one to talk to him, so they ended up shooting some of our interaction specifically. My new ten year-old boss offered some thoughtful insights on how he would approach testing a racing game, while my mind meandered around thoughts like "I wish I would have shaved this morning", "I wonder if I’m holding the controller upside down", and "What’s my motivation?"

The episode aired last Friday night, December 9th, and, unfortunately, exactly all of my dialogue was cut. If you know just when and where to stare at the screen, you can still see me, sitting right behind Peter Moore as he gives Kiyaan his very own Xbox 360, a day early. I’m sure, however, that the excised footage will be restored in the DVD Director’s cut – I’ll be in my trailer, holding my breath.

If the episode happens to air again, it’s worth watching for more than just my performance as a blurry set piece – one of the other segments coincidentally finds a kid, as part of his wish to go to Space Camp (the place, not the movie that Lea Thompson used to warm up for Howard the Duck, thankfully), flying zero-G parabolas in a 727, courtesy of my friend Peter Diamandis and his Zero Gravity Corporation.

Otherwise, you might catch me as "big guy with beard" in a rerun of the now-defunct Discovery Wings Channel’s documentary Flight Sim – click here to see the commercial we got out of the deal. Or maybe even my unforgettable stint as "Jeff the bad guitar player" on Tacoma, Washington’s own Spud Goodman show in 1985. I really helped turn that show around – a scant12 years after my appearance, Spud landed both Weird Al Yankovic and Louie Anderson . . . You’re welcome, Spud.

It doesn’t really matter what you watch, so long as you’re paying attention to me.

I’d like that . . . .

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