Endings and beginnings

22 years ago, in the Fall of 2001, I was laid off from my 17-year career at Kinko’s. I wasn’t alone – of the 350 or so corporate employees who I worked with in Ventura, only 35 would make the move to the new HQ in Dallas. The timing wasn’t great (shortly after 9/11, and shortly after our family grew from four to six kids). But Kinko’s was generous. I had a 3-month window of continued employment, and then 7-months of severance. That’s when I had these printed up:

And it did turn out that I had a fair amount of free time. During the 3-months of continued work, my team wrapped up our projects, documented things, and eventually met with our replacements and briefed them, briefly. Turns out we were old news pretty quickly, so were mostly idled after the first month.

Fun aside – one day during this period I showed up at our office and what should I find but one of these sitting behind my desk:

The coveted Herman Miller Aeron chair. This may not seem like much today, but in 2001 these were the Ferraris of chairs. A thousand-dollar chair. Infinitely adjustable, made with cutting-edge mesh rather than upholstery, and dead sexy. Seemed like an odd development, considering I and my team were in our last month.

It turned out that one of the casualties of the “dot-bomb” crash of 2001 was a tech startup Kinko’s had acquired for many millions just a few months earlier. They were all let go, and all that remained were the Aeron chairs, which were distributed to Directors who remained in Ventura. My team held Monday joke contests to see who would get to sit in it for the week.

Anyhow, during that window I determined to scratch the entrepreneurial itch I had been feeling. I had a decent runway of income. I had an idea. And I had pretty good credit. And so began Business Video Express.

My idea was to radically speed up the process of making videos for training. Rather than testing the idea in some kind of modern Minimally Viable Product approach, I went out and purchased a Class-A Diesel Motorhome, replaced the main living space with a video editing studio, bought cameras, computers, lighting, and sound equipment, built a website, and launched my business!

Screenshot 2023-04-15 at 11.28.36 AM
Thank goodness for the Wayback Machine. Pity it couldn’t display the awesome Flash interactive bit.

The vision was that in this self-contained Video Van, we could storyboard, shoot, edit, and produce training DVDs, on-site and in days, not weeks. And it worked, kinda. I discovered that I was good at the creative, ok at the technical, and utterly lacking at the marketing. But it was that endeavor that led to my work with the Real Learning Company, to my apprenticeship under Richard Hodge, and to my next 17 year career, with a quirky Swedish company called BTS. But I did lose a LOT of money on that RV.

Yesterday was my last day as an employee at BTS. Like my time with Kinko’s, this career has been a wonderful experience – I’ve been a part of creating amazing solutions, gotten to see the world, and made many dear friends. I’ve grown professionally and personally. BTS has been wonderfully supportive during some difficult times. I leave on a high note, and full of gratitude. And excitement for the next beginning.

Fun with ChatGTP4

Juanita and I have been watching through the James Bond films, in order. I wanted to share some thoughts, but was too lazy to write a post. So here instead is ChatGPT4 doing the writing, while I prompt it along.

First, I fed it some examples of my writing style. Then:

Me: Now, using that same voice, create a 4-6 paragraph blog post about the early James Bond films. Share the observation that the Broccoli movies are surprisingly good, and established much of the Action genre as it exists today. Share the anecdote that many of the female voices were dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl, and share a bit of her story. Finally talk a bit about the oddball Bond film Casino Royale, and why it is so different.

ChatGPT:
Title: A Surprising Bond with the Past: A Look at Early James Bond Films
I’ve been an avid fan of James Bond movies since, well, forever. Recently, I delved into the earlier installments, and the Broccoli-produced films struck me with an unexpected brilliance. You might think that a ’60s Bond film would be a bit dated or lackluster, but there’s something special about them that’s hard to ignore. They not only laid the foundation for the action genre as we know it today but also delivered some timeless entertainment that still holds up in this ever-evolving world of cinema.

An amusing anecdote I stumbled upon while exploring the early Bond films involves a lesser-known but vital figure in their success: Nikki van der Zyl. She was the unsung hero behind the voices of many of the iconic Bond girls. Lending her vocal prowess to an impressive number of roles, she contributed to the series’ allure with her sultry and powerful voice. Tragically, she was never credited for her work during her lifetime, but the impact of her contribution to the Bond legacy remains undeniable.

Now, if you’re up for something different, let’s take a detour to the oddball Bond film “Casino Royale.” This 1967 film stands out like a sore thumb in the Bond franchise for its wild and zany approach. With multiple actors portraying James Bond and a psychedelic, spoofy storyline, it deviates drastically from the norm. It’s a chaotic and humorous experiment that veered far from the polished, suave image that we typically associate with 007. You might wonder how such a film fits into the larger Bond narrative, but its eccentricity and departure from the norm make it a fascinating, albeit perplexing, addition to the Bond repertoire.

In conclusion, there’s a delightful charm and an untold richness in the early James Bond films that often goes overlooked. From the influential Broccoli productions that shaped the action genre to Nikki van der Zyl’s indelible contributions and the bizarre gem that is “Casino Royale,” there’s a world of surprises and intrigue to be uncovered. The passage of time has done little to dull their appeal, and they serve as a testament to the enduring magic of cinema. So, next time you’re in the mood for some classic Bond action, why not take a trip down memory lane and immerse yourself in the marvelous world of early 007 adventures?

Me: Can you simplify the vocabulary a bit?

ChatGTP:
Title: A Bond with the Past: A Look at Early James Bond Films

I’ve always been a big fan of James Bond movies. Recently, I went back to watch the early ones, and I was surprised by how good the Broccoli-produced films were. You might think that a ’60s Bond film would feel old or dull, but they have a special charm that’s hard to ignore. They helped shape the action genre we know today and still offer great entertainment that holds up, even in today’s ever-changing world of movies.

One interesting fact I discovered while watching the early Bond films is about Nikki van der Zyl. She was the voice behind many of the famous Bond girls. Lending her voice to a bunch of roles, she added a lot to the series with her strong and captivating voice. Sadly, she was never credited for her work, but her impact on the Bond movies can’t be denied.

If you’re looking for something different, check out the unusual Bond film “Casino Royale.” This 1967 film is quite different from the other Bond movies, with multiple actors playing James Bond and a funny, strange storyline. It’s a wild and amusing movie that’s nothing like the cool, stylish image we usually think of with 007. It’s a weird but fascinating part of the Bond story.

In the end, there’s a lot to enjoy in the early James Bond films that people often miss. From the important Broccoli productions that built the action genre to Nikki van der Zyl’s amazing work and the odd movie “Casino Royale,” there’s so much to discover. Time hasn’t taken away their appeal, and they’re a great example of the magic of movies. So, the next time you’re in the mood for some classic Bond action, why not go back and explore the wonderful world of early 007 films?

Me: Looking better! Can you reflect that Casino Royale is a pretty bad movie, but should really be considered the prototype for the Austin Powers films. Also try to get rid of some of the catchphrases like “can’t be denied.”

ChatGTP:
Title: A Bond with the Past: A Look at Early James Bond Films

I’ve always been a big fan of James Bond movies. Recently, I went back to watch the early ones, and I was surprised by how good the Broccoli-produced films were. You might think that a ’60s Bond film would feel old or dull, but they have a special charm that’s hard to ignore. They helped shape the action genre we know today and still offer great entertainment that holds up, even in today’s ever-changing world of movies.

One interesting fact I discovered while watching the early Bond films is about Nikki van der Zyl. She was the voice behind many of the famous Bond girls. Lending her voice to a bunch of roles, she added a lot to the series with her strong and captivating voice. Sadly, she was never credited for her work, but her impact on the Bond movies is significant.

If you’re looking for something different, check out the unusual Bond film “Casino Royale.” This 1967 film is quite different from the other Bond movies, with multiple actors playing James Bond and a funny, strange storyline. While it’s not a great movie by any means, it can be seen as a prototype for the Austin Powers films that came later. It’s a wild and amusing movie that’s nothing like the cool, stylish image we usually think of with 007, and it holds a unique place in the Bond story.

In the end, there’s a lot to enjoy in the early James Bond films that people often miss. From the important Broccoli productions that built the action genre to Nikki van der Zyl’s amazing work and the odd, yet influential “Casino Royale,” there’s so much to discover. Time hasn’t taken away their appeal, and they’re a great example of the magic of movies. So, the next time you’re in the mood for some classic Bond action, why not go back and explore the wonderful world of early 007 films?

Me: Now add a bit of the backstory to how Casino Royale came to be – why it isn’t one of the Broccoli films.

ChatGTP:
Same, but it altered the paragraph about Casino Royale:

If you’re looking for something different, check out the unusual Bond film “Casino Royale.” This 1967 film is quite different from the other Bond movies, with multiple actors playing James Bond and a funny, strange storyline. While it’s not a great movie by any means, it can be seen as a prototype for the Austin Powers films that came later. The reason it isn’t one of the Broccoli films is that, at the time, the rights to Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale were held by a different production company. Unable to secure the rights, the Broccoli team continued with other stories, which led to the creation of this oddball parody film. It’s a wild and amusing movie that’s nothing like the cool, stylish image we usually think of with 007, and it holds a unique place in the Bond story.

Me: Make it about half the length, and a bit punchier. Don’t be afraid of non-standard sentence structure.

ChatGPT:
Title: A Bond with the Past: Unearthing Early 007 Gems

The early Broccoli-produced Bond films? Surprisingly great. Timeless charm, genre-defining action – they’ve got it all. And here’s a fun fact: Nikki van der Zyl voiced many Bond girls, leaving an indelible, uncredited mark on the series.

Now, “Casino Royale” (1967) – the oddball. Not a Broccoli film because they couldn’t snag the rights. A parody full of chaos, it’s the quirky prototype for Austin Powers. Weird, but unforgettable.

So, dive into early Bond adventures. Discover untold riches, and bask in the magic of cinema. Classic Bond action? Yes, please!

Me: Now as a haiku

ChatGPT:
Early Bond films gleam,
Broccoli’s charm, Nikki’s voice,
Casino Royale.

Me: Now as a limrick

ChatGPT:
In the days of old Bond, so debonair,
Broccoli’s touch and Nikki’s vocal flair,
Casino Royale’s whimsy caught our sight,
A prototype for Austin’s Powers’ flight,
Early Bond films, treasures rich and rare.

Me: Now in iambic pentameter

ChatGPT:
In early days of Bond, the charm revealed,
The Broccoli touch, with Nikki’s voice concealed.
Casino Royale, a parody unique,
Its zany course, an Austin Powers sneak,
These films of yore, their magic still unsealed.

Me: Now as a Buzzfeed listicle

ChatGPT:

Title: 5 Fascinating Facts About Early Bond Films You Need to Know!
1) Timeless Charm: The early Broccoli-produced Bond films still pack a punch and deliver non-stop action. A must-watch for any 007 fan!

2) Unsung Hero: Nikki van der Zyl’s enchanting voice brought many Bond girls to life, but she remained uncredited for her incredible work.

3) The Oddball: 1967’s “Casino Royale” is the quirky Bond parody that paved the way for Austin Powers.

4) The Rights Struggle: Casino Royale wasn’t produced by Broccoli because they couldn’t secure the novel rights, leading to a unique addition to the Bond universe.

5) Unforgettable Adventures: Early Bond films offer untold riches and prove that the magic of cinema endures, so why not rediscover these classic 007 gems?

Now write it in the voice of James Bond, the Sean Connery version.

ChatGPT:
Title: The Vintage Charm of Bond: A Word from Sean Connery’s 007

Ah, the early days of Bond – when I had the pleasure of bringing the character to life on the silver screen. The Broccoli-produced films were quite the ride, a delightful mixture of danger, glamour, and sophisticated charm. Indeed, they set the stage for the action genre that continues to thrill today.

As for the ladies, what would Bond be without his captivating companions? It may come as a surprise, but the sultry voice behind many of the iconic Bond girls was none other than Nikki van der Zyl. Uncredited yet unforgettable, her vocal talent brought those intriguing characters to life.

Now, let’s talk about the peculiar Bond film, “Casino Royale” (1967). A wildly different creature from the rest, it’s the quirky parody that might have inspired the likes of Austin Powers. The rights to the novel, you see, were out of Broccoli’s reach, which led to this rather… unconventional portrayal of 007. A chaotic experiment, but an amusing one at that.

So, fellow Bond enthusiasts, why not pour yourself a martini and indulge in the rich history of the early 007 films? You’ll find action, intrigue, and the indomitable spirit that has kept Bond alive all these years. Remember, old sport: Diamonds are forever, but there’s nothing quite like the original.

False Spring?

Soon this will be green
Soon this will be liquid
Soon this will be a bad idea (taken yesterday at Grand Lake)

Supposed to hit 70° by Wednesday. Dare I believe?

The bucket list

I’ve had “See the Northern Lights” on my bucket lists since bucket lists became a thing. Got a view once on a flight to Europe, arcing over the arctic circle, but that didn’t really count. I’ve plotted drives to Yellowknife, dreamed of a Norway vacation, and have spent a few nights in Alaska, but it takes a confluence of free time, clear Earth weather, stormy Sun weather, and luck to make it happen. All those came together with little warning on Friday.

My Aurora app alerted me to a solar storm that afternoon, and predicted the light show would dip down into Minnesota. Now remained timing and luck. Timing was easy – no plans for the evening. Moon was waxing crescent, check. Skies were unseasonably clear, check. But would it hold? Roads were clear – I could drive as far North as I needed to chase the opportunity. But mentally I almost wrote it off. What were the chances, and if they did make an appearance, would it be more than just a dull glow?

At about 9 pm I stepped outside… and there was in fact a dull glow. But then more. There was movement. My eyes and mind relaxed. I began to see color and shape. I walked to a darker place, and then it came alive. Energy rippling across the whole sky — greens and purples pulsing, surging, flashing. Right here where I lived. Alone in the street, I took it in. Later I drove just 20-minutes out of town for yet darker skies, and was not disappointed.

It was a happy moment, and timely. It came when I needed perspective, needed to think some big thoughts and make some big decisions. It reminded me that for all the worrying and planning, so much just happens, in its own time, for reasons not disclosed. And often it is good.

Here are a few other bucket list moments where I managed to have a camera.

Safari, Palinesberg, South Africa
Solar eclipse, 2017, Oregon
Kauai, Hawaii, open-door helicopter tour with Juanita