HBO GO and the Art of Spoilers

I love almost everything about HBO GO on my Apple TV: the user interface is intuitive, the service is fast and responsive (except when a new Game of Thrones episodes is available), the ability to watch a preview of most of the movies and TV shows increases the chance that I’ll commit time to watching or saving a movie for another time, the overall design is appealing, and access to a majority of the HBO catalog is a plus.

But what I do not love is how often HBO GO spoils major events of a show by the thumbnail image chosen for a particular episode.

HBO GO and the Art of Spoilers

Six Feet Under, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, and The Newsroom: all had major plot points revealed and spoiled by the thumbnail image. “Well, I guess that character dies because there is a photo of the funeral.” “Well, I guess they are getting married.” “Well, I guess that character goes to jail.”

What is the solution to this problem?

Whether the image is chosen by software or by an intern, there needs to be a quick check by an HBO catalog expert to make sure it is spoiler-free.

How much time would this take? Not long at all.

Another solution could be the ability to turn off image previews so that I can still navigate the system without the possibility of spoilers. Maybe a Spoiler Free setting?

How much time would this take? Probably several hours of programming time to add this feature to the HBO GO API and then the integration time by major streaming devices.

That’s the Kind of Movie I Want to Shoot Someday

A friend sent me the most profound text about a movie he recently watched: “That’s the kind of movie I want to shoot someday.”

There is something magical when you watch a movie and it resonates deep within your soul. It fuels your creative wonder and drives you to see beyond the limits of your own imagination.

All is right with the world.

For me, I watch the Sonic Highways series on HBO and think: “That’s the kind of movie I want to shoot someday.”

Early Morning Reflections

An important thought struck me while shampooing my receding hairline this morning: I don’t have to be defined by my mistakes and weaknesses any longer. Today is a new day and what happened last month, last year, or when I was younger has no relevance to what needs to get done today.

Sure, mistakes and weaknesses can act as a barometer and let me know what’s going on in different areas of my life. But they can drag me down, manipulating me to live a life in the Try > Fail > Defeat cycle, eventually losing all ambition and risk.

The only way out of this cycle is to work in spite of my mistakes and weaknesses. I can push beyond how they have defined me in the past by getting up again after I stumble and fall. I can ignore the harsh self-talk that occurs when I make a mistake or reveal my weakness to others. I can realize that learning and knowledge will only come when mistakes and weaknesses are celebrated, not used as a weapon of demotivation and depression.

Most importantly, I understand that I need other people because where I am weak, others are strong. The biggest mistake one can make is living in isolation with the belief that he or she does not need anyone to help them.

How to Do Anything

I have invested years and dollars going to school to learn how to make things. I have spent years reading, watching, listening, asking, and toiling to figure out what I want to be and do with my life. I have spent the past year and a half learning how to teach others to produce creative and technical work. In the midst of my journey, I have learned several important lessons about how to do what you want to do.

Know What You Want

The biggest and most important lesson in doing anything is knowing what you want. Do you want to make a lot of money? Do you want to eliminate malaria? Do you want to create a search engine that does not target advertisements based upon searches? Do you want to be a web designer, a developer, a filmmaker, an artist, a photographer?

I was told growing up: “Now you know and knowing is half the battle.” I would argue that in today’s fast-paced, competitive world, knowing is 80-90% of the battle because the knowledge of who you are and what you want leads to action.

Purposed Intent

Once you know what you want, you’re going to do whatever it takes to get there. You’ll be purposeful with your time, your energy, your relationships, your money, your tangible and intangible resources. Why? Because you know what you want to do. You have a vision for what you want to accomplish and your mission is to bring that vision forth into the world.

You’re going to stop collecting the accolades and criticisms from others. You will learn who truly wants to help you and who is out to watch you trip and fall. Purposed intent helps you to avoid the fear of failure, which often leads to paranoia and inaction.

Be a Fool

A fool is someone that doesn’t know any better when attempting to do something. A fool looks at a task and attempts to do it regardless of the outcome. A fool trips, falls, and fails regardless of who is watching. A fool is in love with what must be done.

Being a fool does not mean you are stupid. It simply means you don’t know any better. You aren’t listening to the messages of others telling you how you should be. That is the world of conformity attempting to mold and shape you into its image. There is a vast cavern between conformity and reality.

Be Tenacious

Get back up. Go another round. Be tenacious in your knowledge and in your application. If you wait for others to bring you around to where you want to be, you’ll learn a very important lesson: People get tired dragging dead weight for too long.

If you are tired, take a nap, but get back in the game as quick as possible. Tenacity is just as habitual as laziness. You’ll be surprised how quick you can go from being eager to lackadaisical.

No Excuses

As I get older, I find that two things annoy me: When I feel the excuses from within and when I hear excuses from others. Ultimately, there are no excuses. You are either do or do not. Yoda had it right.

If excuses are mounting, then it’s important to revisit what you want. Do you remember? Or are you just going through the motions?

Waking Up

I feel I have been living in a fog for the last few years. Sure, there have been standout moments. I finished my master’s degree in Management and Organizational Leadership. I have taught multiple courses in web design, multimedia, and video production. I was a B-camera operator on a feature-length film.

But in the back of my mind, something has been bugging me. I hate the plateau I find myself on. Everything I do creatively feels the same. It takes so much effort to start and finish the simplest of projects. Is this normal?

I never thought this was normal until I discovered Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard. In this gem, Leonard describes the plateau as “the long stretch of diligent effort with no seeming progress.” He further states: “If our life is a good one, a life of mastery, most of it will be spent on the plateau. If not, a large part of it may well be spent in restless, distracted, ultimately self-destructive attempts to escape the plateau.”

Wait a minute, how can a plateau lead to a good life?

  1. By leading us to a lifetime of learning and practice.
  2. By moving us from a life devoted to finishing goals to developing skills.
  3. By teaching action over indecision.

My fog is best described by Leonard: “Indecision leads to inaction, which leads to low energy, depression, despair.”

Makes sense. So, what do I do?

“Liberation comes through the acceptance of limits. You can’t do everything, but you can do one thing, and then another and another.” – Leonard.

I’m grateful for Mastery. It is teaching me critical lessons at a time in my life when I desperately need change. I am going to embrace the plateau by learning and practicing. I am going to keep moving forward one day, one action, one thought, one task at a time.


Secret Longings of Intuition

A crucial component to creativity is intuition. A spark of an idea. An image. A thought. A single word. The tingle in the bottom of the stomach. Intuition is the driving force of creative action. It is the lust for creative beauty that opens one to things that cannot be seen, heard, felt. It is the big bang of creative conception as ideas cross-pollinate within the artistic soul.

I long to grasp hold of intuition, to define it, to make it tangible and real. I want it to be right, safe, and never deceiving. Instead I question my intuition. Is it right? Is it wrong? I procrastinate. I wait. I am bitter as my creativity dies a whimpered death; an after-thought between my posts on social media. “Love me,” I say to the world. “Don’t forget about me,” whispers my soul.

What will become of the expression that longs to cross the boundaries of my dry and broken heart? Will intuition leave me for a more faithful lover?

A Burning Desire to Excel

Buried in The Education of an Illustrator by Steven Heller and Marshall Arisman is a beautiful quote on what it means to be a student of the arts:

“Education should stress the fundamentals, encourage the desire to learn, and create a safe environment in which the students can learn more about themselves, take risks, and grow to exceed their perceived potential. But, no matter how well the educator orchestrates this, it will only work if the students are not only willing to learn, but have a burning desire to excel in their chosen field. Going through the motions is a sure path toward being stuck in the pursuit of the norm. The main problem is that the norm isn’t achievable because it’s always changing. However, with a willingness to learn and a desire to excel, today’s students can create the next norm and the next.” — Thomas B. Allen

Do you have a burning desire to excel?

On Learning to Use a Hammer

When I was in Africa, a carpenter tried to teach me how to properly drive a nail. He showed me how to hold the hammer so that its weight would do all the appropriate work. It was up to me to practice and make sure that I was using the hammer in an optimal way.

I couldn’t do it. My nails were driven halfway into the wood and started to bend out of shape. A little tap from the left. Some cursing. A lot of taps from the right. I just couldn’t figure out how to use the hammer.

I watched the carpenter drive a nail like Mr. Miyagi. I attempted to mimic exactly what he was doing. I tried to hold the hammer the way he did. The nail still went in crooked. I finally determined that the problem was the hammer and that I should buy a new hammer.

Overcome Boring Work

When I started my business in 2006, I held the belief that I would never take on work that I did not want to do. However, this belief has been shattered by my inability to say no to work (translation: unhealthy workaholic). The result has been a cycle of late nights fulfilling unrealistic deadlines, diminishing vision, a lack of care for my health, and occasional boredom towards the very work I was hired to do.

When one is a work junkie (translation: very unhealthy workaholic), the pressure of deadlines and the subsequent choices made in order to live up to those deadlines is the fix that leads to an addiction. I am an addict. I can’t say no. I need the high, but I am bored.

Recently, I was talking with my wife about the boredom I felt and she made a comment that hit me hard: “It may be boring to you, but have you thought about the people that the creative work is for? Will they be bored?”

The moral of the story: You may be bored with your work, but in the business of providing creative solutions, it is never about you. It is about your client, your audience, and the message that is being communicated to them.

Want to overcome boring work? Get over yourself and do the job.


Visual Illiteracy

While I am not a painter, I love reading books about the creative and artistic process. In Joe Fig’s book, Inside The Painter’s Studio, he interviewed several painters regarding their process, philosophy, schedule, studios, and materials. One painter, April Gornik, discussed the concept of visual illiteracy in an age where visual information is in abundance:

I think it’s very hard for people to see art now. I think that photography–not through any fault of its own–has become the common visual denominator in all the arts. And people tend to see things as images, and they don’t understand or even experience the somatic import of the art. They’re seeing it only with one of their senses–they just see the image. They don’t know how to read into it. . . . But people are accustomed to seeing things as kind of a quick fix.

Is there a cause for visual illiteracy? How do we overcome it as a society? Does being able to see art matter? How is the digital revolution affecting our notions of scale, proportion, contrast, and color?

The questions are many, but all I can think about is not wanting to be visually illiterate. So, instead of writing, maybe I’ll sit in front of a painting and enjoy the sensations of art.